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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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.


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I want to be a Dinosaur!

Tuesday night will probably be one of those moments in life when people will ask where were you and what were you doing when Barack Obama became the President of the United States of America. I have to say that my answer is not very glamorous. I was actually in the bathroom helping my toddler try to fend off his bout with constipation, when I overheard that Obama passed the 270 mark on TV. I am sure that my son is glad to be part of history in this way. But the following morning as we were all beginning to wake up and gathered on our bed, as is our usual morning routine, we asked our son a question. My wife Theresa asked, “Today you can be anything that you want to be. What would you like to be?” He thought for a few seconds, looked up at us and said with a loud clear voice, “I want to be a dinosaur.”

After all the laughter, and the chuckles that I had throughout the day when I thought about my three year old slowly becoming a dinosaur, I began to think about the hopes and dreams that we all have for our lives. I shouldn’t have been surprised by his answer since he has been infatuated with Dinosaurs for almost two years now. But in his answer, he did not say, he wanted to be a paleontologist to study them, or go back in time to be with them, he actually wanted to be one himself. At this one moment in time, that is his hope and in his striving, he sees no barriers in achieving it.

At what age do these hopes become dashed for us. When do these dreams begin to fade. It may come from inside of us filled with doubts and comes also from external sources such as our parents and family. But as an Asian American, I know our society as a whole has a lot to do with it. As I see the world around us in my daily living, I see hopes shattered all across this country and all across the world. As I see injustices in many places and in California with prop 8’s passing, I feel and see anger and hopes drowning in tears.

As I ponder the gospel message in this week’s lectionary, Matthew 25:1-13, I read of the 10 bridesmaids, all dressed and ready in excitement to meet the bridegroom. They are waiting in anticipation, but their hopes are dashed in the prolonged wait and they all fall asleep. As I see hopes dashed again and again, I also fall asleep at times for extended periods. But in life, things happen that wakes me up, stirs me and points me in the way of hope again.

As I watched with tears in my eyes the new First Family walk out onto that stage at Grant Park in Chicago and heard Barack Obama’s speech to America and to the world, the single word that enveloped me was “hope”. Hope that we can reach for dreams again. Hope that a better America is possible, an America that is just, honest, not only thinks inwardly about its own well being, but works with others to make the world a better place. And an America that breaks down all barriers and injustices between people. In no way do I think Obama is the “One”, the “Savior”, the “great hope” who will bring all of this about, but for me, he is a symbol that points me again in the path of hope and that we can all work together to make change happen for a better world.

As for my son’s hopes of being a Dinosaur, who knows, sometime in the near future with enough genetic engineering and technology, maybe he really can be a dinosaur. But for now, I will continue to provide the environment and work to make the world a place where he and my daughter can dream dreams, see visions and actually make them happen.