InHo Kim – My Faithful Journey

Life Stills of a Korean-American Man/Husband/Father/Pastor


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My Son Wept

tearsThis past Saturday my 4 year old son wept. He didn’t cry, ball, throw a tantrum, but he simply wept. I always knew that he was a caring, empathetic child but it was the first time I saw his tears as he was experiencing an unpleasant and painful emotion in his life. You see, his grandparents, my parents, had been in town for 6 weeks. Every winter, my parents who are retired, visit us for an extended vacation during the month of December and January. It is their chance for respite from the frigid Midwest and to spend quality time with their grandchildren. As my son grows up, he is beginning to understand just how much they mean to him and he means to them. More than the things they buy him, which is constantly, he cherishes every moment spent with his grandparents, his hanmi and happi. They are always up in his room playing games, roaring like dinosaurs, dancing to his favorite music, playing instruments, kissing him, hugging him, tickling him and loving him. I could plainly see that they delight in him and he in them. For 6 weeks, he experienced what it might be like if we had lived closer to his grandparents rather than 2500 miles away. And this past Saturday at noon, they left. He was sullen all morning and wanted to go with me to the airport to see them off. As we hugged goodbye, I could see the tears well in his eyes as he told them he loved them and watched them head toward the terminal. On our 20 minute drive home, I held his hand as he stared out the window with tears that flowed down his face. His only words were, “Apa(dad), I really miss Hanmi and Happi.”

As I watched my child weep, it was strange to feel both sadness and joy. I was saddened that my son was experiencing painful feelings, but I also felt glad that he was able to express those deep feelings in a natural way. You see, I grew up in an Asian home, a Korean home. And though I am lucky to have such loving and caring parents, I grew up hearing all of the things a little boy might hear, “don’t cry”, “stand and dust yourself off”, “it will be ok”, “suck it up”, “boys can take it”, etc. Looking back, it didn’t help me get over my hurt or pain. It just made me deny and hide my true feelings. Tears were held back, anger was buried, pain was dismissed. And as I grew up, I hadn’t a clue what I was feeling or even who I was. It was only in my mid to late 20’s that I began the journey to self-discovery and reclaim my emotions. And it was through my seminary years that I began to piece myself together, for I knew that if I had no idea who I was or what I was feeling, how was I as a pastor able to truly listen and have empathy for others. Now, some years later, I understand that the steps taken on this intentional journey not only made me a better pastor, but more importantly a better person.

This past week, I was directed to a commencement speech by JK Rowling at Harvard last June. The title of her speech was “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination”. I thought she would talk of imagination as a creative outlet as was clearly visible in her Potter series, but instead she states,

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared. . . . Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Empathy as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner” Empathy is difficult to teach or to instill. And in the world around us, empathy is in such short supply. As JK Rowling continues,

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

And yet, it is what God calls us to do and be, to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

So as I watch the tears flow from my child’s eyes and as he goes through life in his young years, the utterings heard of my childhood will never come out of my mouth. As I held my child’s hand, I told him it is ok to cry, it is ok to feel sad and I will be there for him in whatever way that he wanted. I told him I know he missed his hanmi and happi and that I missed them too. My hope is that in helping him feel and be in touch with his deep emotions, he can learn to better relate and empathize with others.

As we were heading up the steps to our house, he turned to me and said, “apa(dad), are you as sad as I am?” I simply told him that I was sad also and held him tight, knowing that in reality, I wasn’t quite as sad as he was. I do miss them since I only get to see my parents maybe twice a year at the most and we do have a great time together, but 6 weeks is a long time! I do need my house and space back. I need quality time just with my wife and my kids. Being an introvert, I need my own cave time at home. And like any parents, they have their criticism and advise on myriad of things in my life. I need my life back! So I told a little white lie to my son, but no one can say that I am not in touch with my feelings and needs . . . . . and hope my parents don’t get a hold of his blog!


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Annoyed and Annoying

brighton signA few nights ago as I was walking through our living room towards the kitchen, I happened to catch some FoxNews, you know that “fair and balanced” 24 hour news program. Normally it is not a station that I turn to unless I want to know how the other side still thinks, but my parents are in town. My father, who is an incessant news watcher and a republican to boot, was watching the news headlines and the words “Brighton, Michigan” caught my interest. It seems that Brighton, Michigan, my hometown, has passed a law few months ago that as of January 1st, 2009, it makes it unlawful to be annoying in public. Here are the short blurbs from Fox and Livingston County Press.

The statute states that “it shall be unlawful for any person in the city to insult, accost, molest or otherwise annoy, either by word of mouth, sign or motion any person in any public place,” and “it shall be unlawful for a person to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose.” And where in the public sphere can these law be enforced? The statute states in “any tavern, store or grocery, manufacturing establishment or any other business place or in any street, lane, alley, highway, public building, grounds or park.” Rich Perlberg, the editor of my hometown paper says that we “can call the police, who can arrest the guy, throw him in jail for 90 days, give him a $500 ticket or at least send his annoying behind on his way out of the city limits.” This little midwestern city in Michigan, population 7000 within city limits and its greater township which includes another 70,000, is now one of the most dangerous cities for many people to visit. Who hasn’t been annoying in public. With all these fines, I don’t think I could afford to live there. San Francisco is a costly city, but for many of us, Brighton may turn out to be the most expensive city to live in the United States.

For the last couple of days, I have been thinking about things that annoy me lately. So in honor of a book and website I found on cyberspace called “Life’s Little Annoyances”, I made my own list. This list is not comprehensive by any means nor is it in any order, but as I think about my life and my world, there is no shortage of annoyances. Here we go:

1. San Francisco Drivers – are notorious for rolling stops and not using the turning signal, even on left turns. I don’t know how many times that I have had to slam on the breaks or yell (of course with my inside voice) at someone stopped in an intersection only to see the car turn left without the turn signal. This is actually against the law. Can I make a citizens arrest?

2. Roundabouts – this is where an intersection that should have 4 or more stop signs is instead met with a circular path. It is supposed to help the flow of traffic but is confusing and dangerous in my opinion. Some years ago, when Brighton was growing, it began building roundabouts. At that time, it had the distinction of being the only city in the US that had a double roundabout which is doubly annoying.

3. Not respecting the elderly. A few days ago, I waited behind an elderly gentleman at RiteAid who was met with a rude and inconsiderate young clerk behind the counter, only because he took a little bit of time to get some change out his pockets to pay for his medicine. My Asian sensibilities took over and wanted to climb over the counter and slap the young clerk. (oh did I say that out loud)

4. Speaking of inconsiderate people, what about inconsiderate neighbors. We have a neighbor who will play her loud musical instruments (acoustic-electric guitar, trumpet, electronic keyboard, amplified microphone) all hours of the night. She can be heard singing and playing at 1 or 2 in the morning at times. We have spoken with her several times and yes, even called the police for help. Just like many San Francisco homes, the outside walls of our homes touch and with most of these houses built in the early 40’s, the walls are not that thick! I don’t want to jam with you through the walls at 1am. Instead invite me over at a reasonable hour.

5. Bad user manuals and even worse tech support. I struggled a whole day to setup a new upgraded wireless router which included horrible instructions and a tech support who I couldn’t understand and was not the slightest bit helpful. I returned the router and bought a another brand which had an excellent manual and was set up in less than an hour.

6. Bad and slow service at restaurants

7. Dishonesty – in a world where most information is spun and in a cyberworld where one can project whatever image he/she wants, honesty should be a prerequisite to being on the net. It is being truly who you are and being grounded in that in whatever conversation and situation that you encounter. It also means owning up to one’ faults, shortcomings and mistakes. A difficult thing to do as we see George W. Bush at work and in this video of Ann Coulter and Al Franken. Honesty is of great importance to me.

8. And with #7, I am annoyed by sound bites, punditry and polarizing analysis and analysts in the media, in churches, etc.

9. Churches and faith communities who say they are reaching out to young families and welcoming to children, but are readily annoyed when they make the slightest of noise in worship. Children make noise! God can take it and even enjoys it!! I think even baby/child Jesus probably made a little noise when he went to the synagogue. He made bigger noise as he grew up.

10. Not enough time to absorb information. A friend of mine was saddened that she will not be able to read all of the books that she wants to read in her lifetime. For me, it is not only books but information as well. My parents have been in town for the past three weeks and I haven’t had time to follow my google reader. I checked it this morning and it said I had over 1000 pieces of news and blogs that I hadn’t read. It saddened me to mark over 95% of them “mark as read” without reading them to clear them from the page.

11. My incessant need to check my facebook, twitter and my various email accounts. Having a blackberry doesn’t help here. May need an intervention.

12. I am annoyed that I am slowly getting sick of Korean Food. Again my parents have been visiting us for the past three weeks and every night, and sometimes for lunch, we have been eating Korean food. It is my favorite food to eat and my mother is the best, in my book, as Korean cooking goes. She makes food with the most delicate and cleanest of tastes and flavors. And even though all of the meals are slightly different, my taste buds and my stomach are beginning to revolt. And I hate that!

13. Annoyed that I haven’t had much time to myself and have not started many of my New Year’s resolutions

14. As I think back to the past year and all of the events in the world, I am annoyed that much of my memories are of the tragedies, injustices, violence and wrongdoings (as my favorite Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote), instead of all the good and hopeful things that people have done.

15. And finally I am annoyed that I am annoyed so early into the new year.

BREATHE .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

But maybe on this 8th day of the New Year, these annoyances will give me the motivation to actually do something about them. I hope!


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Imaginary Fire

fireplaceFor the past two months, I have been complaining and/or dreaming of my imaginary fire. I may be wrong on this, but I think my facebook friends may be tiring of my many “imaginary fire” updates. You see, I indeed have a fireplace in my home here in San Francisco (yes, that is a picture of my fireplace) and on most nights I indeed can build a fire. The sad thing is that I have been absolutely lazy to check the air quality updates on a daily basis. This winter in San Francisco, it is against the law to burn wood in fireplaces on “spare the air days” from November to February. Typically, we have around 20 of these days interspersed throughout these months. The fines begin in the hundreds to thousands. You can see a short article here. So instead of lessening our checking account needlessly with money we don’t have, we have decided to not burn anything in our stocking adorned fireplace, which by the way should make it easier and cleaner for Santa to slide down the chimney in a few days. 

I don’t really need to burn anything in the fireplace at all, especially if it does any damage to the environment or hurts our neighbors who may have health problems. I don’t even need it for the heat. It is purely for emotional pleasure and the idea of a family gathered by the warm, flickering flames. With both my wife and I pastoring in our respective churches, it is always difficult for us to spend the holidays with family. We have been truly blessed these past few years, including this year, that my parents have been able to be with us during the Christmas holidays. But for some reason, I especially love having my parents here with us this year. Maybe it’s the fact that it has been a difficult year for us, or maybe now that we have a daughter we want her to be as close to her grandparents as her brother has been. Or maybe, just maybe, it has been so tiring parenting two children this year, I now want to be parented myself. To be mothered and fathered is a feeling that I will never outgrow no matter how old I am.

A few years ago, I went back to Brighton, Michigan to visit my parents. It is my hometown and it is not something I do very often. But I distinctly remember a moment when I thought to myself, “I will always be my mother’s child.” It is not something I think of on a regular basis but it was not an unpleasant feeling. I distinctly remember the moment while at a local mall and wrote a few lines of verse for a song that I never finished:

I am standing in the mall with my aging mother

Trying on a pair of pants one after another

Here I am a man supposedly 40 some years old

Still enjoying being taken care of like he’s a 3 year old.

I am sure that there is a country song in there somewhere, though “country” as a genre is not on my musical radar.

For this year, the fire and glow is not in our fireplace, but in my heart and in my soul. I watch my mother hold and laugh with her 6 month old granddaughter. I see my 4 year old son run into the arms of his grandfather first thing in the morning. I hold and and snuggle with my wife to bask in all our blessings and in our abundant love. And yes, even Chewy the dog rubbing his brown, soft, furry body along my leg wanting to be petted and rubbed gives me a warm glow. 

In this hectic holiday season that all ends on Christmas eve, I hope the real glow of the meaning of Christmas doesn’t fade the day after Christmas. (Not unlike my somewhat flickering glow for Obama as to the choice of  Rick Warren for the invocation prayer at his inauguration. Don’t get me started and I am still trying to understand it, here, here, or video here – but I digress) I hope to continue to remember God’s love that came to us in the form of a baby Jesus, and just like an infant, I will continue to provide nurture and care so that love, peace and justice can permeate in all and through all. All I can do is to keep the glow of Christmas burning and “Go Light My World” as in the song by Chris Rice:


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Sorrow into Joy

Upon reflection of this weekend’s activities, it is amazing how seemingly random events are so interconnected. First was the Saturday night Christmas party for the English Ministry of our church. It was a gathering of current and former members of all ages. At the midpoint of our get together, as we were contemplating the true meaning of Christmas, I asked those present to share stories of hope or joy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked that question, but it turned out to be a wonderful time of sharing that lasted much into the night. People began to share their experiences of this church, of who invited them, who welcomed them, their painful and joyous times, and of meeting their spouses at this particular church or walking into the church office to find their pastor handcuffed to the file cabinet by those who took all of the Sunday’s offering. And finally we heard stories about the history of this church. Though First United Presbyterian Church was founded in the mid-1800’s, it moved to its current location in 1953. It was a mostly Caucasian congregation and it was busting at the seams with almost 500 children and youth participating each weekend. Then as it often happens with many churches, the membership began to shrink and age and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the church viable. It was at this moment when the Taiwanese congregation was welcomed into the church and it was this congregation that continued the ministry of First United PC. It was a new birth and the former members of the church told stories of their thankfulness to this congregation for carrying on the ministry of the church. It was a moment of turning sorrow into joy.

Just this morning, the Advent candle that was lit and my message during the service happened to also touch on the topic of turning sorrow into joy. The scripture was from John 16:16-22 where Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection and turning sorrow, mourning and pain into joy. Jesus uses the metaphor of a woman who endures labor pains, but soon forgets about the anguish and feels the joy of bringing a baby into the world. I know that we would like to think of Jesus as being empathetic and equal to both sexes but when I read this, I know he is speaking from a very male point of view. I know many women, my wife included, who may forget the pain for awhile; however, I do not think it is completely forgotten. One thing that was clear to me is that all of the tears and the screams of childbirth did turn into joy when my wife held our baby in her arms. The tears of pain immediately turned into tears of joy.

"Laying on of Hands" by Toto Hartono

"Laying on of Hands" by Toto Hartono

This evening, I attended a different kind of birth. It couldn’t have happened at a better time when we are in the Advent season and especially on a Sunday when we celebrate “Joy”. Today was the day when Mission Bay Community Church was finally birthed as an official church of the Presbyterian  Church USA. It certainly was not an easy process. Its conception and labor pains lasted 9 years. I was privileged to be part of the pastoral staff for five of its beginning years. And now that this community has been joyously birthed, yes, I still remember the birthing pains.

I remember times when we would work blood, sweat and tears to put a great worship service together week after week to only see 5 or 6 people in the congregation. For more than a year, the members of the small band, the pastoral team and a few worship leaders would outnumber those sitting in the pews, or I should say, sitting on IKEA chairs. I remember the 100’s of trips to our favorite store IKEA to fill our worship/office space. I remember all of the moves and the pains of boxing and hauling and painting and redecorating and reorganizing. My mind aches to think of all of the disappointment that we would feel when we would not see the fruits of our hard labor, knowing that we would have to pick ourselves up to work just as diligently the following week, knowing the results might be the same. I remember agonizing over the budget and having to take major salary cuts. I remember losing hope and faith at times. And yes, there were tears and fears and gnashing of teeth along the way. And I remember all of the former and current “as of today” members of this congregation, who began with the church or soon after its conception who gave time, energy and sacrifice to make today’s celebration possible.

But as I was laying hands on the new members, elders and pastoral staff, who would lead this congregation, I did for a moment forget the pain. I was at one with all those in the room to celebrate the joy of the moment and prayed that God would continue to bless and lead them in very special ways. And though I do remember all of my pains and sorrows in this place, I felt joy that this congregation has come so far and that I was privileged to have served in a small way to make this birthing possible.

May God continue to work through Mission Bay Community Church to transform, heal and touch the lives in the San Francisco community and the world.


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Unexpected Hope

pennySo as I was about to take a few “golf” pencils from the back of the pew to poke my eyes and ears out as I sat through an excruciatingly laborious congregational meeting, I was stunned back to reality by two things. First, as I was about to put my head in my hands and stare down to the floor to find a sign that this will get better, I found a shiny penny on the red, just shampooed carpet below me. And secondly in that same exact moment, the elder who was about to take us through the budget for next year mentioned a name, Louise Mueller. Though I knew what the penny was and what it represents, luck or hope or even a sign of uselessness in today’s economy, I had no idea who Louise Mueller was. It was explained to us that Louise was a former member of this church. Because this church touched her so much over the years and because she continues to have such hope for this faith community, she gave a large portion of her estate in her death to our church. Hope comes from such unexpected places. As our economy struggles, so does our churches and the church that I serve is no exception. I believe it hits smaller churches the hardest. But just when things look bleak and the glimmer of hope begins to distinguish, hope arrives unexpectedly.

As I began to ponder the incredible gift of hope that Louise gave to the church in its time of need during Advent, my mind wondered to my experience of Advent just two years ago. In just a few months after a painful separation from a faith community I dearly loved and cared for, in my dark place of despair, my wife and I discovered that we had conceived our much wanted second child. It occurred during the beginning of Advent and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were desperately needing and looking for any sign of hope, and joy came down to us in a form of a our beautifully growing child. As I reflect back, at the time without knowing it , this child became for us “the” sign of hope in our lives. But it was soon short lived when in early January, during an ultrasound, we found that our baby’s heart was no longer beating. Not only were we devastated because of the loss of our child, but also because of the loss of hope in our lives. It threw me into such a state of despair that the only way to express it was through a handwritten poem:

I Am Sorry

I am sorry for the way

I didn’t think about you during the day

I am sorry for the way

I didn’t talk to you each night

I am sorry for the way

I forgot about you in my life

I am sorry for the way

You are not here with me today


I am sorry for the lack of tears

And for my stoic face

All I feel is numb and cold

And a smile is a mile away

I am sorry that I did not think

About you, when you were alive

And I am sorry I try to forget

About you, now that you are gone


I am sorry for the way

I put my hopes and dreams on you

I knew it was unrealistic

But it’s what I needed to do

And I am sorry that my anger

Is over a damn bed that will not come

Instead of that my unborn child

Will cease to grow and be born


But I do think about you

Each and every night

Just how much I would have loved you

And kissed you good night

How beautiful you would have been

And a mother and brother who would have love you so

And now all I can say

Is sorry that you had to go


So we lay your beautifully forming body

In front of our loving God

May God hold you close and dear

Forever and today

I love you, Your Daddy

But in this darkness, hope came unexpectedly from so many places. There were many Louise Muellers in our life. When I had lost hope, there were others who hoped for me, carried me and even instilled hope in me once again. So in this Advent season as we celebrate the time of hope, I continue to think about how I can be an agent of hope to those who need it the most. And I think this is what the Advent Conspiracy is partly about:


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The Art of Forgetting

Gluttony is the word that describes my last 6 day vacation in Reno. The days just flew by full of food, laughter, beers, wine, desserts, and more food, laughter, and yes even more libation. It was a whirlwind vacation with a Thanksgiving feast, family gatherings, my son’s birthday party, a baptism of my niece, pictures with Santa and ending with a hike into the mountains of Toiyabe National Forest to find our own Christmas tree. Here is a family pic (possible Xmas card?)

2nd annual xmas tree search

For six days my only focus was my immediate and extended family. It felt awesome. Of course it took me a few days to mostly unplug my life. I say mostly, since I did send a few twitter updates during the six days. Being an Internet junkie and a recent convert to social networking sites, it was difficult to completely unplug. It took all I had to hold myself back from checking all of the news/tech/digg/sports/facebook/google reader/twitter gadgets on my igoogle page as I stared at a beautiful 24 inch iMac screen in my sister-in-law’s home. It was harder still to ignore my emails on my blackberry which constantly reminds me of incoming mail with a tone only described as “caffeine”. My favorite blackberry button during the week was “delete on handheld”. Even in my SF home when our eldest is away in preschool, you would mostly find my wife and I in the living room with our laptops, browsing, checking emails and working while instant messaging each other sitting side by side. Geeky I know in a cute kind of way of course. And finally it took two days to completely unwind and leave my work life.

In the midst of my vacation, what I began to forget is the world around me: no news, no information, no emails, no status updates. I would not have known about the terrors in Mumbai, the bombing in Somalia, the continued economic downturn, and the possible Obama cabinet members if my news hungry father didn’t tell me about them when I called him to wish both my parents a Happy Thanksgiving.

But most of the six days felt like a Sabbath for me, a true Sabbath of rest and of basking in the life that I now live. It was a time to unwind from the world, work and information overload. This vacation gave me a chance to enjoy those around me, and God’s gifts and creation more abundantly. And it all culminated on our last vacation day while hiking through the forest on our 2nd annual Christmas tree finding expedition. Breathing in the cool crisp air with the crackling sounds of snow under our feet and with family and friends by our side, it was easy to forget my San Francisco and my cyber life. I drank it all in while watching my son and his cousin make snow angels on the ground, staring at my wife lovingly holding and kissing our daughter, smiling at my dog Chewy as he pranced in joy among the snow piles, searching high and low for our perfect Christmas tree, laughing while hearing awful jokes, and yes, downing another beer while holding, no inhaling a bowl full of homemade chili. It was a perfect way to celebrate and end my Sabbath.Toiyabe Forest Hike

The art of forgetting is difficult to master and so needed in life, and this week has reminded and taught me just how important it truly is.


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You “____”!

I love games but am not an avid online gamer. So when a friend sent me an email to play Texas Hold’em on facebook, I decide to try a hand or two. It’s been years since I would get together with the guys on Friday or Saturday for poker nights. We would win some, lose some, eat some, joke some, and expletives would fly around the table faster than the cards or our chips. We knew each other and were all friends. Now we are all married, have regular jobs and yes, kids.

As I sat down to play with about 6 others on my laptop screen, I didn’t recognize their names let alone pronounce them. As the hands were played, we chatted with such niceties as “nice hand”, “good play”, “good one”, “I thought you may have that card”, etc. But as the game went on and the amount of the pot rose, the chatting became a little more venomous, until about 20 minutes into the game, the pot was as high as we had ever seen it. And with most of our chips in the middle of our imaginary table, I received the exact card that I needed on the turn and won. As I was celebrating while watching How I Met Your Mother, immediately the expletives came flying my way by people who I do not know and have never met. And for a brief moment, I remembered all of those names I was called as a young Korean American boy growing up in a small town in the Midwest, by people who did not know me or wanted anything to do with me.

I just read an article in Reuters about the new controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s faith. The controversy isn’t coming from those who think Barack Obama is a Muslim, though in a recent survey, 50%  of devout Christians who were McCain voters thought that Obama is/was a Muslim. According to the Reuter’s article, the question of whether Obama is a Christian is coming from “those who think he’s a phony follower of Jesus Christ.” And the reason for this is because of a few of his answers to some theological questions in a 2004 interview with beliefnet.com. It just doesn’t jibe with their own theological views on which they stand. These detractors have never met or have had a conversion with Obama personally about his life or his faith.

Labels. Definitions. Can we ever be free of them. Can we ever free ourselves from a society, a world that wants to define us. I grew up with the words “chink” or “Jap” that dripped off my body as I walked the malls, the halls of my school, or the alleys of the streets in all my little towns, knowing that I fit neither of those ethnic groups but treated as less than all the rest. I was the invisible Asian but belittled nonetheless. I walked into churches where I was taught either I was a sinner or that I was better than most because I was a Christian. I walked into high school and college with instilled values that I needed to excel in math and sciences because that was what I was supposed to do to find a safe career. I was told to be good and act my best at all times because I wasn’t just representing myself in the world, but I was representing all Koreans to the community around me. I was and still am constantly bombarded by commercials on billboards, newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and Radio telling me that I am a consumer and have lots of needs. I receive ad emails and pop ups on websites by those who think they know me and what I want in life.  And I am still haunted at times internally or externally, that as a pastor I should be “holier than thou” and can’t really be me.

In a 60 Minute story on the Obama’s, both Michelle and Barack are were very protective of their daughters as well as they should be. But more than that, they wanted to protect them from being unduly influenced by outside forces that will come just because they are the children of the President. Barack said that after 4 or 8 years, if his children stay true to who they are and not become jaded or changed because of this situation, then they would have done their jobs.

It has taken me until my mid twenties to begin to break out from under the weight of all of society’s labels of me and to truly be me. At times I felt like I wanted to scream and rant like these two women in the video. (Please excuse the strong language but not the sentiments)

For the past 13 years or so, I have begun a path to discovery to finally claim my identity as a uniquely created child of God. I am sure that no amount of Therapy or introspection and conversation can rid me of all of my labeled baggage, or would I want to rid myself of all of them, but I can be aware of them and at least try to make the world a better environment for my Son and Daughter to figure out who they are without all of the negative help. Wish me luck!


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Truth and the SF School Fair

School FairWe spent last Saturday morning perusing the sea of tables with information about different schools in San Francisco. In the almost three years that our son will have been in daycare and preschool, we will have spent more money than receiving my degree from University of Michigan where I attended in the late 1980’s. So we are taking the plunge into public school education which is full of choices, the anxiety, the information gathering, the waiting, and oh yeah, entering into The Lottery System that San Francisco uses to decide where our children will attend school. So in order to make an informed decision for our top 7 choices of schools, we spent an hour and half talking to school teachers, principals and parents. We already did some research before the enrollment fair and wanted to make sure to visit several school that we were already interested in, but also wanted a chance to see what other choices were out there. And we were pleasantly surprised that there plenty of good public schools in San Francisco that offer many different programs and teaching philosophies. Talking with those who were promoting their school of choice, one would have thought that all the schools were top notch, the best school out there, the most caring teachers, most involved parents, or “up and coming” and “jewel” in the rough. I think we have to take all of these with the grain of salt.

So today, as I was writing all the dates for school visitations, I began to think about the question, what and where is the truth. Do we take what these school promoters tell us at face value. Do we just rely on the comments, reviews and the school scores that we found on the internet. Or maybe do we just go with our gut. Today, I was directed to an online book called Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Mark Kelly. I was interested, had some time, and it was very short read. The author wants to prove beyond the reasonable doubt, more than saying I believe because I have faith, that the true religion and the morals associated with it is the Christian faith. He wants to blast holes in the different world views that people hold, such as Skepticism which he abhors, to prove that the Christian faith is the true religion. But in defending the Christian faith and denying other world views and ideas such as the Theory of Evolution, he uses those same lens of the skeptic. Not only that, he defends Christianity as truth by using the Bible itself and using his interpretation of it. As a Presbyterian pastor, I was so interested in how he would prove his point, but after reading the article, I became a skeptic myself. And a few questions that lingered afterwards is what is truth and what exactly are the truths that the author was talking about?

What is the truth? Is the truth relative? As I study, pray, engage with the community around me, I know I hold truths and stances that are very different from another’s. Whether it is in the interpretation of scripture, philosophy of ministry, or my moral and world view, I know my beliefs are contrary to some. In my context, in the place where I am today, in my connection with God, in my striving to live in the way of Jesus, I hold and live with these truths, truths which may be very different from another Christian who lives across the street, across town, or across the table in the small group that I lead. To me, this is where conversations are so important. I enter into these conservations with my truths, not to change the other’s mind or beat it over someone’s head, but more to listen and to fully hear, and hopefully to be heard as well. And in our talking, listening and understanding, the truth becomes bigger than mine or theirs.

Whatever the case, the truth of Christianity is not only to know it but to live it in love. More than making the best oratory or written arguments for Christianity, wouldn’t it be better to live and show it with our lived life individually and definitely as a community. This morning, I posted a status update on facebook pondering “what is truth”. And one of the comments I received was, “the love in your family and in your community”. For today, that is the answer to my question that I was seeking.

As for our Son’s school choices, we will visiting no fewer than 7 different schools in the first two weeks of December. More than taking the word of someone promoting their school, we will experience the school ourselves. And we certainly hope that the truths that were told is indeed true when we make these visitations. And really, isn’t this the truth that Christians and non-christians alike are looking for when they enter our communities of faith. Just wondering.