InHo Kim – My Faithful Journey

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


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To My Mother(s)

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Theresa and my mother – the women of my life

So. . . I’ve received new boxers from my mother each year well into my late 30’s. Yes, even years after I was married. There, I’ve said it! And I don’t mean the cheaper brands like Fruit of Loom, or walmart or . . . not that there is anything wrong with those. But these boxers are the nicer, softer, more stylish and expensive designer brands like Polo and Calvin Klein. I bet you have a different image of me now or you think of me as a “mama’s boy”. And you know, you would be partially right.

See, I left home when I was 18 and never looked back. Well, there was that one year after college when I went home for a year to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life, but other than that, for all intensive purposes, that was the last time I lived with my parents. And yet, whatever I was doing and wherever I’ve lived, this small package came to my door year after year, full of 5-7 new designer boxers. I may not have had money to buy designer clothes, but one thing was for sure, underneath my outer clothes, I was very couture.

These thoughts have been in my head because yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I miss my mother terribly from over 2000 miles away. Living in San Francisco, away from my parents who live an hour outside of Detroit, Michigan, we only get to see and embrace each other once or twice a year at the most. And my mother for the past 6-7 weeks has been ill. She’s had a bad case of gout for the past 4 weeks and just as she was recovering, she has contracted shingles which made her immobile again for the past 2 1/2 weeks. For a very active woman in her very youthful mid 70’s, this has been hell for her.

The gospel passage for this past Sunday’s lectionary is from the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John. In the midst of Jesus telling us just how much he loves us and just how much we are to love, in verse 11 he says this, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” As I read the lectionary passage this past week, this was the verse that struck me more than others. What joy was Jesus talking about? This was the discourse at the end of his life when he would be betrayed, humiliated and nailed to the cross. Where is the joy in the midst of all this suffering?

But then, just this past Wednesday, we received a package. I know what you are thinking. No, it was not several pieces of couture underwear. It was a box of 3D puzzles that my 7 year old son Ian has been wanting, a box that he saw when we visited my parents in Michigan 2 years ago. Now that he is a little older, they sent it to him with a little love letter plus $50 in cash for him to use. And use it he did. He’s been wanting a Ninjago Destiny Bounty Lego set for half a year now. He’s been saving his small allowance that we give him each week since January to buy this particular lego set. He only had two more weeks to go before he could afford it, but now he had more than enough. So this past Wednesday afternoon, he and I drove all over the Bay Area for over 1 1/2 hours to track down what he has been dreaming of for over 5 months.

As we were driving home, he called my mother. The excitement of his voice was palpable and yes, so was my mother’s voice on the speaker phone. Even in her weakened, depressed state, the joy of my mother for my son came through so clearly over the speakers of my iphone. My mother lives for her children and her grandchildren. She gave up so much to mother and raise her kids and now pours that same love onto her grandchildren. I can say that I’ve suffered some in my life, mostly of my own doing, but hearing the stories of my mother, I haven’t suffered one iota of what mother has gone through in her life. Yet love and joy exudes from her whenever she cares for her family and now her growing extended family.

Yesterday as part of the worship service, I asked the congregants to come forward, take a multicolored flower and invited them to say the name and/or a prayer for our mothers and/or mother figures. We ended this time by reciting a prayer that my friend and colleague Abby King Kaiser wrote in her blog about our mothers.

So I write this as a love letter to my mother and to our “mothering kind”, who cares, loves and nutures us, our families, our children, our congregations, our communities, our earth and our world. My deepest gratitude for all of you.


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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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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.