Foxes have holes….اللائذ

Duhok-Domiz 161
Syrian children posing in a makeshift camp (photo from rescue.org)

Disclaimer(z): the title is a reference to Scripture, not a certain news channel.
And no, I do not speak or write Arabic. The word اللائذ – pronounced Allaúz – means refugee, or one who seeks shelter.

A lot has been written, said, opined as to what the U.S. ought to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.  Sadly and regrettably, the issue has become politicized the the point where you are either for or against the refugees entering American soil – or at least within the boundaries of your state.

I cannot speak to the political or national-security issues related to this crisis but in my devotionals this morning, I came across this poem which I feel is a most timely and relevant word for us:

I followed where they led,
and in a hovel rude,
with naught to fence the weather from his head
the King I sought for meekly stood;
A naked hungry child
clung round his gracious knee,
and a poor hunted slave looked up and smiled
to bless the smile that set him free;
new miracles I saw his presence do,
no more I knew the hovel bare and poor,
the gathered chips into a woodpile grew
the broken morsel swelled to goodly store.
I knelt and wept: my Christ no more I seek.
His throne is with the outcast and the weak.

His Throne is with the Outcast by James Russell Lowe

So much more I want to say on this but the prudent choice is to keep my mouth shut.  For now.  But I must say that I find the poem above speaks to my soul.  Does it speak to yours?

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Top 5 Lessons Learned (so far) in my journey into parenthood

5. Forget meaningless categories like service, quality, Happy Hour menu.  I now evaluate restaurants purely on one criterion: diaper changing area.

For my mother-in-law’s birthday, my wife and I took her out to a nice (read: EXPENSIVE) hotel restaurant to celebrate.  Halfway through our meal (which was very delicious, by the way) babEnam decided to grace our table with a little pupu platter of her own making.  With my diaper changing pad in one hand and my dookied-up daughter in the other, I went out looking for the nearest bathroom.

Excuse me, do you have a diaper changing table in your bathoom I asked the hostess.  Uh…sorry, the women’s bathroom doesn’t have one so I doubt the men’s room would have one.

HARUMPH! was my incredulous response (in my head, of course.)  Outwardly, I said, Ok, thank you!” and went on my way.

The men’s restroom had no changing table.  I didn’t care.  I spread out the diaper changing pad over the bathroom sink area and went to work.  It took all my coordination and mental alertness to keep babEnam from falling off the counter or slipping into the bathroom sink.  Flustered and exhausted became I.

Again, the food was pretty good, & the service was excellent, but I will never again choose to go to that restaurant.  Just because of this experience.

And it’s not just nice restaurants that lack diaper changing tables.  Wife and I went to a Korean BBQ joint on Kapiolani Blvd and they, too, lacked changing tables.  But not all restaurants are spawned from the prince of darkness.  Below is a short-list of public places/restaurants where we have been pleasantly surprised:

Macaroni Grill (Ala Moana)  While changing your baby, you can listen to Italian language lessons being given over the house system.  What makes this changing table awesome is that it is removed from the sink and door area, affording the dad some much-needed privacy to change squirmy baby and, if need be, shed a tear or two because he may have doo doo stuck in his fingernails for the duration of the meal.

Windward Shopping Mall Food Court (bathroom right next to Hot Dog on a Stick, which my wife loves!)  Windward Shopping Mall receives my prestigious HIGH FIVE award.  why?  They have a separate FAMILY BATHROOM, which is essentially a private, single-person bathroom.  Glory.

Waikele Shopping Center – Clean and easily accessible but warning: the changing table is situated right at the entrance where the door is always propped open.  Be wary of perverts and nosy tourists.

Christ United Methodist Church (oh yeah, baby.  Both men’s and women’s restrooms on both the 1st and 2nd floors.)

If you have one of these bad boys in your bathroom, you will have my undying loyalty.
If you have one of these bad boys in your bathroom, you will have my undying loyalty.

4. I feel personally responsible for shrinking landfills and global warming.

We live in a high-rise condo building in Honolulu.  One of the cool features of buildings like ours is the trash chute.  Instead of taking your trash out to a dumpster or other outside location, all you need to do is take your trash to the chute and voila!  Before Elizabeth came into the world, I made the walk to this trash chute twice, at most three times, a week.  Since we became a family of three, I take the trash out once, sometimes twice, a day.  Ridiculous.  We have a 13-gallon trash can so these aren’t exactly small amounts of waste we’re talking about here.  What is the reason for our growth in garbage?  babEnam and her Winnie-the-POOH diapers.

To date, babEnam has gone through six large boxes of diapers – all given to us at a baby shower held one month before Liz was born.  We still have a couple boxes remaining but they are bigger in size.  So today, we bought our first box of diapers for babEnam.  Costco.  212 Size 2 Huggies.   This box will last us about 17 days, maybe 3 weeks if we really stretch it and make babEnam sit in her shee-shee longer than she cares for.

This is approximately 1 week's worth of babEnam diaper usage.
This is approximately 1 week’s worth of babEnam diaper usage.

3. Clothing made for Little Humans – you may look, ooh & ahh but never, ever buy.

Future first-time parents, beware: babies grow.  FAST.   A few tips:

  • Don’t even bother with the “newborn” size.  That’s a joke.
  • Onesies are awesome.  i keep clean onesies all around our apartment because you never know when babEnam will need an emergency change.  Carter’s makes some of the softest onesies out there.  We have several brands but Carter’s feels the best to us.  How does Liz feel about them?  I don’t know. She can’t talk.
  • No need pants.  especially during diaper changes, b/c that’s another layer you need to work through just to get at the pot of stinky gold.
  • I guess what I’m trying to say is: buy clothing that is functional first, functional second, and functional third.  If you meet the first three criteria, then you may consider whether the outfit would be cute or not.   Too often, parents will see clothing (a cardigan sweater, summer dress, pink socks with ruffles, etc.) and squeal with delight at how adorable their little child would look in that getup.  Dress your baby up like a baby, and not like a miniature you.
Irrelevant picture, you say?  I google image searched "baby clothing is a racket" and this is what came up.  You decide.
Irrelevant picture, you say? I google image searched “baby clothing is a racket” and this is what came up. You decide.

2. Mom blogs are awesome.  Where are all the daddy blogs at, though?

Seriously, I subscribe to at least half a dozen mom blogs and I love them all.   I love reading up on tips, stories, recommendations, etc.  However, I don’t see too many fathers out there giving the same type of advice.  Or maybe I’m not looking hard enough.  Or maybe dads don’t blog.  Some of my favorite blogs:

1. A Perfect Lily – I never cry, but when I do, I seem to be reading reflections and sharings from this momma.

2. Momastery – I don’t necessarily agree with all her thoughts, but I respect her.  Moreover, I enjoy her insights and writing style.

3. Deliciously Organic – I wish I had the time and the knowhow to fix up deliciously organic meals for my family.  But at least I can dream with the help of this website.

4. Little World Organics – Similar to #3

5. Daechoong Mama – A good friend and former colleague of mine writes on this blog.  If you are Korean-American, you.  will.  relate.

6. Konglish Kids – You won’t find product recommendations or reviews here; instead, you can use the interweb to see two beautiful children grow up under the care of two awesome parents.

my precocious daughter
my precocious daughter

1. A live-in grandma (mom, mother-in-law, doesn’t matter) should be included with every newborn.

Elizabeth Ha-El Nam was born on October 22, 2013 at 8:18am.  My mother-in-law has been with us since October 24, 2013.  She is slated to leave back to Korea on January 20.  My mother-in-law is divine intervention personified.  I have always loved her dearly but my level of respect for her has shot off the charts in the past few months.  In addition to pulling most of the graveyard shifts when it comes to caring for babEnam, grandma (she is 외할머니 or maternal grandmother ) has cooked, cleaned, and done everything in between for us.  I am grateful for 외할머니.  If Minhee and I have more children, a live-in grandma – even if it’s only for the maximum 90 days as permitted by current U.S. travel visa rules – is a non-negotiable.

My mother-in-law and babEnam, together with the footsteps of Jesus.
My mother-in-law and babEnam, together with the footsteps of Jesus in the shadows of angels.

Why do they call it UltraSound and not UltraSee?

Ultrasounds.  My wife has been having lots of them lately.  If you’re not familiar with ultrasounds, it is the technology that enables you to see an image (in our case, a baby) that is still inside the human body.

In the waiting room before one of her ultrasound appointments, my wife got to talking to a lady who was further along in her pregnancy and she gave my wife some unsolicited advice on how to get more entertaining ultrasound results:

I always wanted to see the baby move a lot during these appointments, but every time we took an ultrasound my baby was sound asleep.  But one day, I ate a whole bar of chocolate right before going into the ultrasound room.  By the time we zeroed in on the guy, he was dancing around like a Pentecostal at a revival meeting!

I told my wife that eating chocolate prior to an ultrasound was probably not the best idea.  It would probably be safer to live vicariously through this woman’s experience than to give our own baby a sugar and caffeine rush merely for our own amusement.  So give me the chocolate instead, and I’ll dance like a circus bear.

Yay for Family Reunions!

I will be traveling to Korea next week, from May 27-31, to meet my wife and bring her back to the U.S.  On May 29, we will walk in together for an ultrasound appointment – and I am so excited.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss my wife after nearly 4 months apart.  I can’t wait to feel the tiny little bump in her abdomen.  But mostly, I can’t wait to hold her hand and lead her into the ultrasound room, the very first time that she’ll have her husband by her side for a sneak peek into our little buddy’s world.

Yeah, You’re Cute.  Sort of.

In Korea, there is this technology available known as 3D ultrasound.  It sounded pretty cool over the phone.  But then I got the first initial images via email.  What you are about to see may shock you.  Viewer discretion is advised.

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My wife called this pose, “Praying Baby.” I called it, “Dr. Evil planning the New World Order. muhahaha.”

Honestly, the image is too vivid for me.  You can clearly see the head, arms and limbs beginning to form, but that’s the key word: beginning.  The image on the lower right gives him/her the most epic jawline in homo-sapien history.  And look at those kneecaps.  I even see a little bit of thigh muscle.  Gross.  This is silly, but the two masses coming together which my wife called the praying hands….I actually prayed to God that there would eventually be 10 fingers and that we wouldn’t give birth to a baby with lobster claws.

In other words, the image plays with my head and makes my already-wild imagination venture off into strange places.  Who needs drugs when you have 3D Ultrasound?

Keep It Simple, Sam

On the day that my wife found out she miscarried one of the twins, I witnessed one of the most precious ultrasounds – the surviving baby in a reclining position.  Through the baby’s relaxed posture, God seemed to be reminding me that things were going to be okay – for us, for the child we lost, and the child who remains.

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dont’ worry umma and appa. i’m stil healthy and strong. trust in God.

My Wife the Dog Whisperer

my wife has also been taking pictures with dogs lately.  this dog below belongs to a family friend.  a maltese.

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Hi, I’m a maltese. In a headlock.

this dog, an 18-month old shih tzu, was given to my mother-in-law.  her original name was Mini.  i thought, perfect!  but i was alone.  her parents decided to rename her Popi.  Popi is the name of our dog.  i was a bit offended.

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my name is Popi, but I am not worthy to carry that name.

World, there is only one Popi and make no mistake, she resides in Chinatown Honolulu, HI.  here she is in an outfit Mini and I have affectionately dubbed, “the nightclub dress” showing off her impressive collection of clothing that she has graciously agreed to donate to this imposter-popi living in Korea.

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loddy doddy i likes to party, i won’t cause trouble, i won’t bother nobody.

Sweet Pea, we will see you soon.

But this post is about ultrasounds, so i will leave you with the one that started it all.  back when this was taken, there were two peas (my wife lovingly called them her 콩s).   The image may be grainy, the two dots undefined and seemingly so impersonal.  But we love these two peas dearly, and we can’t wait to meet one of them on November 11.

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He gives and takes away

Recently, my wife and I announced the joyful news that we are expecting twins, due Nov. 11.  So much love and warmth has poured in from friends and family all over – especially those who understood how long we had tried to conceive.  Everything was going smoothly….

….until this past Sunday.

After a great day of Sunday worship and church cleanup, I was in the middle of enjoying shave ice with some EM folks when, out of the blue, I received a most disturbing text message from my mom. Translated, it read, Sam, something has gone wrong with one of the babies.  Call mom asap.

My heart sunk as I tried to decipher what “something has gone wrong” meant.  The Korean words used were ” 애기 하나잘못됬어.”

Stealing away from the group for a second, I called Korea hoping to reach my wife.  My mother-in-law picked up and her first words were, (again, translated), Sam, we lost one of the babies.  The baby….simply stopped breathing.  By that, I assumed she meant that the baby’s heart stopped beating.

Instantly (I didn’t even know this was physiologically possible) tears welled up as I struggled to maintain my composure while simultaneously peck away at my quickly-melting shave ice.

We hung up, my fellowship ended, and I raced home to try to get more details.  Alas, I was told that my wife was still in the hospital, on an IV solution because she was dehydrated and absolutely spent (she had barely been eating due to extreme morning sickness) and that she would call me when they return home from the hospital.  I would later find out that she spent the entire three-hour session sobbing uncontrollably.

He promises to wipe every tear….

So, I had my first big cry session – alone.

Later that night (Sunday here, Monday afternoon in Seoul), Mini called me.  Cue cry session #2 – only this time, we did it together.  And we felt a little better afterwards.

Miscarriages are hard.  Life sometimes doesn’t make sense.  And do you want to know what I preached on this past Sunday, a mere hours before I was to receive this incredibly painful news? Even when life doesn’t make sense, let us worship and follow Jesus.

He never said it would be easy, but He also promised that He would never leave us or abandon us.  I suppose the skeptic will say that those are just words.  But in my life, at this time, His promises are exactly what I need and His Word is holding me together.

In the midst of our sadness, there is a praise report – the other baby is doing just fine. And that makes me so happy.

In Christ, there is always a silver lining.

On Monday night, I got a kakao message from an EM church member named Esther.  She had been sick for a few weeks and unable to attend church so she didn’t hear the announcement about the twins.  Out of the blue, Esther messaged me and wrote, “Hi, Pastor Sam!  I know this is strange but last night I had a dream that Mini SMN was holding a baby boy in her arms.   IS SHE PREGNANT?”

Now, keep in mind that I was still reeling from the recent news of our miscarriage but this kakao could not have come at a better time.  The Lord brought unexpected joy into my heart as I wrote back to her, “hehe….why yes!  we announced it to the congregation last Sunday!”  I left out the twins part.

So yes, we have one child.  here’s a pic of the little buddy.  i like to think that he/she is just chillin’.

baby2

I suppose this blog will chronicle the journey of our very first pregnancy.  Thanks for following along.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living!

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13-14

My Experiences in Chiang Mai & Bangkok

From Jan 28 to Feb 3, I had an opportunity to travel to Chiang Mai & Bangkok, Thailand.  I traveled with a team from my home church, Christ UMC Honolulu.  The following pictures help chronicle this vision trip.  Enjoy!

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At Honolulu International Airport, checking in with extra speedy service thanks to one of our team members, 김연도 집사님.
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Where we slept during our stay at Chiang Mai – The Lanna Palace Hotel. The owner of this hotel is a Christian (only 0.1% of the population of Thailand is Christian).
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One of our first visits was to Mae Taeng Elephant Park. Our Missionary Hosts (Gary and Cindy Moon) wanted us to experience Thai Culture through various ways.
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taking a raft down the Mae Taeng River. Due to the presence of elephants and their hefty bowel movements, nobody dared touch the water.
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Beastmode Driving.

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Wild Orchid GardenImageImage

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Visiting various churches/orphanages.

A day after sightseeing, our team proceeded to visit various churches, schools, and orphanages that were sprawled throughout the region.  Our average commute from one place to another was 2-3 hours but Missionary Gary Moon filled up our time with insightful stories about his experiences.

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For the next 3 days in Chiang Mai, this was pretty much my vantage point for 2/3 of the time. Missionaries Gary and Cindy Moon lead a ministry that spans several provinces in Northern Thailand. While we slept in Chiang Mai, we traveled to several outlying provinces including Chiang Rai, Phayao & Nan

Wednesday, January 30th

Gideon Chiang Rai UMC

The first church we visited was called Gideon Chiang Rai UMC.  We were greeted by the Pastor, Pastor Taradon, and his fiancee.  His fiancee works for Destiny Rescue International, a ministry that rescues young girls from the sex trade that is prevalent among the mountain tribes of Northern Thailand!

In addition to leading this church, Pastor Taradon also runs an orphanage comprised of several boys (they were at school when we visited).  See pictures below.

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Rev. Nak In Kim, our senior pastor, presenting a special gift offering to Pastor Taradon and his ministry.

 

Akha Peoples

After visiting Gideon Chiang Rai UMC, we traveled another 2 hours deep into the mountains to visit a group known as the Akhas.   These people knew that we would be arriving on this particular day to visit them.  Upon our arrival they greeted us with joyful noises with song and laughter.

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The new building in the background is being built with donations from Santa Clara UMC. The second floor will be the future sanctuary and the first floor with have classrooms and dormitory-style rooms for future mission teams.
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Mr. Yoon joining with the Akha church members in singing and dancing.
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The current sanctuary for the Akha church.
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The welcome spread for our group. Note: All of these fruits were plentiful all throughout the village. Even the poorest person in this area will probably never starve to death.
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Rev. Kim praying for the healing of these two men seated.
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Rev. Kim presenting a gift on behalf of Christ UMC to the Akha Church senior pastor.

Thursday, January 31

Hmong Village School

Our first stop was to a school high up in the mountains to visit a Hmong Village.  There are 152 students at this school ranging from Kindergarten to sixth grade.  The village has over 400 families and well over 1,000 people.  On our way to the school, we drove by several (empty) church buildings.  There was no discernible Christian presence in this village.

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Angel’s Haven Orphanage

On Thursday afternoon, we finally visited the Angel’s Haven Orphanage where currently eight young girls ranging from 8 to 16 are living.  All the girls are HIV+.  Visiting this orphanage was the highlight of my trip.  As soon as I walked into the house, I felt a strong sense of love and affection surrounding that place.  You could see the love of God in these girls’ faces.

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Friday – Sunday

Bangkok – Visit to a Boating Village

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paddle-thru noodle soup. delicious!

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Bangkok Prasiri UMC Sunday Worship

It was a joy to worship together with brothers and sisters at the Prasiri UMC.  Led by a young pastor couple, this church is a growing congregation of young families and young adults.  Our very own Rev. Kim preached the Word.

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Rev. Kim blessing the children.
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Proclaiming the Word of God!
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Mr. Yoon presenting a special gift on behalf of Christ UMC to Prasiri UMC.

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Missionaries Gary and Cindy Moon

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so much love and respect for this faithful couple.

 

 

 

 

 

why a book written in 1962 might be the most relevant resource for youth ministries TODAY.

based off an indirect recommendation from a friend of mine, i recently read David Wilkerson‘s The Cross and the Switchblade.  written in 1962, TCATSB is Rev. Wilkerson’s personal account of how he went from pastoring a small congregation in rural Pennsylvania to ministering to violent teenage gangs, drug addicts, and prostitutes in the slums of New York City.  reading this book reminded me of the book of Acts in the New Testament.  there are stories and God-moments that leave you scratching your head and secretly lamenting that such signs and wonders aren’t as visible today.   i am convinced that this is the one book every youth pastor must read for (at least) these three reasons:

1. incisive cultural commentary

speaking of the boys he was trying to reach with the love and message of Jesus Christ, Rev. Wilkerson noted:

The boys in this particular gang – were they all like this? – were bored, lonely and smolderingly angry.  They craved excitement, and they took it where they could find it.  They craved companionship, and they took that where they could find it. (sorry, i can’t cite page numbers b/c i read this on my kindle).

did you catch his simple, but accurate, description of these gang members?  bored, lonely and smolderingly angry.  that sounds like the typical description of a youth kid today.  in fact, it sounds like many adults i know as well.  in fact (#2), it sounds like many youth and adults i know in church.  ouch, somebody give me a band-aid cuz i just cut myself.

it seems that many of our precious youth today are misguided but more importantly, many of our ministry methods are painfully ineffective and foolish.  we spend so much time working on behavior modification but we do not address the heart issues of boredom, loneliness and angst.

outward change, unless it is accompanied by an inward transformation of the heart, is ultimately an inferior goal for any church or youth ministry.  in fact, such superficial discipleship might actually be anti-Christ.  Church, our vision and standards of youth ministry must rise to match the testimony of Scripture.  there is no curriculum or conference currently available that will remedy spiritually bankrupt ministries.  we must return to the Gospel message for the Gospel alone has the power to transform us and enable us to live godly, God-honoring lives.

2. don’t blame the TV, video games or Facebook

there is a lot of junk being piped into our youth who indiscriminately ingest any and all forms of entertainment.  there are a lot of hours being wasted on kids responding to the Call of Duty, adults flinging angry birds at disembodied pigs, and everyone and their moms updating their statuses on Facebook.

TV Execs Admit in Interviews (and forthcoming book) that Hollywood has pushed a liberal agenda (in other news, Captain Obvious strikes again.)

The flood of filth and the waste of time should trouble us, I admit.  however, could the moral outrage and protests being raised by evangelicals actually be a subtle cover-up to our own lukewarm discipleship?  i mean, somebody once taught that it’s easier to see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye but fail to see the logjam in your own.

On how to reach people for Christ, David Wilkerson’s grandfather (also a pastor) developed this very contrarian view of reaching the lost.  He called it the Lamb Chop method.

“You win over people just like you win over a dog,” he used to say.  “You see a dog passing down the street with an old bone in his mouth.  You don’t just grab the bone from him and tell him it’s not good for him.  He’ll growl at you.  It’s the only thing he has.  But you throw a big fat lamb chop down in front of him, and he’s going to drop that bone and pick up the lamb chop, his tail wagging to beat the band.  And you’ve got a friend.  Instead of going around grabbing bones from people, or cutting feathers off them (he is referring to another method of bringing conviction to sinners – cutting ostentatious feathers off of lady’s hats as they walked down the aisle to the altar call) I’m going to throw them some lamb chops.  Something with real meat and life in it.  I’m going to tell them about New Beginnings.”

Today, most youth pastors are more likely to design and wear t-shirts that’ll say “Call of Discipleship” instead of Call of Duty….or “Face(His)Book” in Facebook font thinking that they are being cool, hip and relevant.  I think those t-shirt ideas are lame.  The Gospel isn’t about mimicking popular culture or tricking kids into buying a t-shirt because they think it’s from Abercrombie and Fitch, only to discover that it’s a knock-off.

this has lamesauce (and lawsuit) written all over it.
Christ came to give us a Spirit-filled, Abundant life.  He came to give us a new heart so that we would love God with all of our souls.  We must return to the place of heart & soulful God-centered loving and living, friends.

I’ll bring you more than a $1 – thoughts on offering

I have two traumatic memories from my childhood that have heavily influenced the way I look at offering.

Using Offering Money for Personal Ice cream Gluttony

I grew up in Koreatown, Los Angeles and attended the Korean Central UMC of LA.  Every Sunday morning, the neighborhood ice cream truck magically appeared outside the steps to our church right after Sunday School was finished.  It was like the ice cream truck man just knew.

get thee behind me, satan!

My parents have always been generous to me so each Sunday, in addition to my $1 for the offering basket, they would also give me a quarter to buy an ice cream after service (yes, every ice cream on the menu was 25 cents).  One Sunday, it dawned on my pea-sized intellect that if I forego offering time, I’d have enough cash to buy not one, not two, but FIVE ice creams.  Moreover, I could become Mr. Popular and buy ice creams for my friends, maybe even cute girls.  I was the Gordon Gekko of ice cream.

Alas, mothers always have a sixth sense when it comes to their children’s disobedient ways.

One Sunday during offering time, I again passed the basket without putting my offering in, pulling it off with another feigned “oops, I think I left my offering in the car” look of stupidity on my face (coupled with the obligatory patting down of my pockets with mock urgency) – and soon after, I found myself at the front of the line, ready to spend my hard-earned $1.25.  my life motto might as well have been seek ye first the ice creamdom of god.

Lo and behold, while trying to get my grubby little hands around my frozen cavity sticks (see pic below for illustration) I heard a distinct, “상신 아!!”  Momma Nam wanted my attention.  While only my name was mentioned, everyone who grew up with Korean parents knew that my mom really meant to say, “imma kill you when you get home.”  I got a well-deserved butt-whuppin later that evening.  I never misused my offering money after that day – even long after my mom stopped giving me $1 for Sunday offering.

are you ready for K-town’s Most Wanted, circa 1981?

don’t let the bowlcut fool you; this 1st grader used to steal from God to feed his lust for popsicles

God wants your heart, not just your $1

Years later, I learned another powerful truth about offering, and again the setting was Sunday School and the object for this lesson was the ubiquitous $1 bill.  My Sunday School teacher at the time was the current Rev. Jonathan Park, a man I consider a dear friend and great mentor.  One Sunday, Jonathan tried to teach us the value of giving God our hearts.  He told us, “Everyone puts in a dollar because that’s what your parents give to you before you come to church on Sundays.  But guys, God wants more than just a $1 bill that you didn’t work for.  God wants your heart of obedience & even if all you truly possess is 1 penny, God would be more pleased with your sacrifice of 1 cent over that measly dollar.”

Being the smart-aleck 5th grader that I was, I chose to internalize only what I wanted to hear – God only wants 1 cent and not 1 dollar?  The next Sunday, i put in a penny and kept my dollar.  Perhaps I thought somebody would laugh.  Maybe others would follow suit.  Nobody laughed and (thankfully) nobody followed my asinine behavior.  That was the last time I ever left a penny inside the offering plate.

assuming few, if any, youth write checks for offering, i do not understand why our offering total always has cents in it. is that really what we think of God?

Is there an upgrade available from the current “$1 bill” model of offering?

When it comes to offering and Christian worship, young people who grow up in the Korean immigrant church are by and large ignorant.  We are, for the most part, inconsistent and irregular givers and we often lack any disciplined method of setting apart God’s “sacred portion.”  This phrase is taken from Deuteronomy 26:13 and what should surprise us about this teaching of tithing is that this tithe is a special tithe to be given every three years in addition to the regular tithe that God’s people were expected to regularly give.  This special tithe was reserved for the Levites, the alien, fatherless and widowed – essentially the people in society who had no income or means of support.  Social welfare done through obedience to God is regarded as sacred because God declares it so.  Let us never forget that.

For some, firstfruits still mean firsfruits.

Still, there must be a better way to teach our children and youth about the joys of sacrificial giving.  Recently, I found this envelope laid aside after one of our youth worship services:

student LEE, you have blessed me with your example of joyful obedience.

i know the young lady who wrote this.  it took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to blot out her name (a photoshop scholar i am not).  finding this envelope was a holy moment for me.  tears of conviction and gratitude welled up in my eyes as i thought of student LEE (by the way, she checks the “tithe” box but that is inaccurate; student LEE gave 100%, not 10%, of her first fruits).  i am grateful for this young woman’s parents and their insistence on teaching their daughter the value of giving our firstfruits to the Lord.  i also affirm her first bullet point – she wants more money.  =)  thatta girl.  you go, girl.  ask yo daddy for mo money.

may this type of sacrificial giving – not only of our money but our affections, time and yes, even ourselves – become the normative experience for Christ’s disciples today.