The Art of Asking Why…

why-calvin & hobbes

 

At one point in our lives, we were really good at it.  In fact, we were so good at it that it probably drove our parents absolutely crazy!  We used to be so good at asking why…  because we were trying to understand the world around us… but somewhere between ages 3 and adulthood, we’ve lost the art of asking why.  Perhaps it’s because we lacked people who encouraged curiosity and why questions in our lives.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  I get quite few emails and inquiries regarding children’s ministry from my peers… They often want to know what curriculum to use, what events to have, how to have a stellar children’s ministry, if I would come speak at their VBS, or to consult for them.  These are all great questions… however, when I ask them why they do what they do or why they want to change things up, I get two very common answers:  because that’s what we’ve always done or because we’re bored with what we’re doing.  Often times, I take a step back  and ask “why do you do children’s ministry?”  And more often than not, I get a blank stare before they formulate some answer about wanting the kids to know and love God.  Once I probe further and ask “why do YOU do children’s ministry”, I often get “because the church asked me to” or “because I like kids.”  I’m not saying that these are all wrong answers… but I just wish people asked “WHY” more often… Why do we do VBS?  Why do we have Fall Festival?  Why do we have Christmas plays?  Why do we have camps?  If the answer is “because we’ve always done it” or “because they asked me to,” then we really need to go back and have a clear objective about why we do what we do!

Another reason why I’ve been thinking about “WHY” is… I’m often approached by parents and kidmin leaders about the need to change behaviors in kids.  I understand that misbehavior can be frustrating and even maddening.  I usually come back to the “why” of their behavior… because I’m more concerned with the heart and lasting impact.  Kids are smart… they often can figure out how to behave so they don’t get in trouble… but that doesn’t indicate that their hearts have changed at all.  I will be honest–this is NOT an easy process most of the times… Journeying through the “why’s” are often followed by more frustrations and probably more questions than answers in the beginning… but once again, I do wish more people were concerned with the “why’s” of why kids behave the way they do…

So… all this is to say… let’s not quench the curiosity in kids when they’re little… I think “why” is such an important question in life… and at every age and stage in life, we need to be asking more “why” questions!

 

Flying Solo…

ImageIn June of 1983, at the tender age of 10, I flew on an airplane all by myself from Kansas City to Los Angeles to visit my dad for the summer.  I didn’t want to be treated like a child, so I carried “an adult purse” and carried “The Girls of Canby Hall” and “Sweet Valley High” books with me on the plane to look mature.  The flight attendant literally put a tag on my shirt… and I’m not kidding you–it looked like a luggage tag!  It was HUGE!  They needed to make sure that I was delivered to the right owner, my dad!  So little did I know at the time that this would be the first of many, many solo flights to come in my lifetime.

Between ages 10 and 18, I flew to and from Kansas and California every summer.  Once I went off to college, I flew (or drove 8 hrs) to and from Los Angeles and Berkeley multiple times a year.  When I started seminary in Los Angeles, I served at a church in San Francisco… and yes, this is crazy… but I flew on a weekly basis from LA to SF/Oakland for three years. I’m really good at 1 hr naps now… and thankfully, I have the gift of sleep, so I’m also good at falling asleep before the plane take off and waking up right when it lands!  After seminary, I started exploring the country and the world… so I had the privilege to travel… and I even flew by myself from Los Angeles to South Africa with 18 hr layover in Frankfurt, Germany (that wasn’t by choice… it was because my friend’s flight was delayed and re-routed to London instead of Germany).

People often say “you must hate flying…”  Well, the truth is… I love airports.  I love flying alone.  I love people-watching.  I don’t even mind sleeping on the plane.  The only thing I don’t enjoy about traveling is the security line… otherwise, I’m an excellent traveler (if I do say so myself).  I landed in LAX just about 4 weeks ago after KidMin Conference in Ohio… and when I landed, I sighed a sigh of sadness because I knew I was done traveling for the year.  I was going to miss the hustle and bustle of this place that everyone hates so much!  (okay, I’ll be back on January 1, 2014… but still… I’m done for 2013!)

Why do I share this story?  For 2 reasons…

  1. People often talk about how much they hate traveling/flying, thus they would assume that I also hated the whole traveling process… and because it seemed like people expected me to say “yeah, I hate flying…” I would say “yeah, i hate flying” although it really wasn’t true.  Well, I’m finally coming out and saying “I love flying–and I even love flying by myself!”  It’s okay to say what I really want and feel even if people think I’m crazy for it.  This is probably a bigger/longer blog for later… but finding confidence in speaking up for what I really feel and believe even if it’s not the popularly held belief is very liberating!  I understand the some people stress over traveling/flying… but I that’s not me!  I really enjoy the process… even the packing sometimes!
  2. It occurred to me recently that God had been preparing me since childhood to fly/travel alone.  For me to enjoy something that most people dread is a blessing.  To have the gift of sleep is a blessing (yes, I can just about sleep anywhere in any position).  God knew all along that I would spend a good deal of my lifetime at airports and planes… and I think I was in training since age 10.  God is so cool that way…

so right now, I sit here just browsing through flight specials because I’m itching to get back on a plane (I know, I’m crazy and weird that way)… but that’s okay… because that’s how God made me, and I’m totally comfortable flying solo…

busyness is my drug…

We just had an all-church retreat… first time in close to ten years, I believe.  When you’re at a church with 1000+ adults, attempting an all-church retreat is no picnic.  The last week leading up to the retreat was crazy!!!  I’m used to the craziness… I’ve been organizing vacation bible schools for almost 20 years now… I’ve led many all-church or children’s ministry events. I used to be an event planner.  I’m used to having my life stop for the sake of getting one event come together.

Leading up to this retreat, my life was already crazy with family and personal drama… but I was able to put it all aside in preparation for this retreat.  I had been running around for 2 full days just shopping for the retreat… In fact, I literally had forgotten to eat for two days… If you know me, that RARELY happens… and I wasn’t kidding when I say I lost 5 lbs during this time.  Well, the retreat came and went… and everyone had a great time.

On my drive home on Sunday afternoon, my first thoughts were “now, I have to deal with everything that I had put on back burner for the past week,” followed by a big sigh.  Once someone said to me, “you know, I’ve done drugs, I’ve gotten drunk every night, I’ve smoked everything I could find… but when I get sober again, all my problems are still here.”  Well, DUH…  we all know this (at least I hope we do…) but it occurred to me that sometimes my busyness is my drug.

The retreat isn’t bad in itself… all the events I’ve been part of weren’t bad, pointless events… When you’ve been in church ministry for close to 20 years, life is always busy.  But it sometimes becomes a distraction or diversion from dealing with what I really need to do–personally and in ministry.  It’s easy to put my family on hold while I’m busy prepping for a big church event… and they’re gracious and understanding (most of the time).  It’s easy to put my personal issues and feelings on hold while I’m running around like a headless chicken.  But when the event is over, nothing has changed… and I either have to deal with them… or find another way to keep myself busy.  As I was in the middle of drafting this blog, I decided to take a break and watch one of my favorite blogger’s Tedx Talk: Kristen Howerton… and what a God thing that she talks about this exact topic–diversion!

And this quote completely caught my attention:  “The only way to work through crappy feelings is to walk through crappy feelings.”  So I will end with her talk and this:  My name is Gloria, and busyness is my drug… and I’m ready to deal with my crappy feelings.

I Want a Do-Over!

go back 3 spacesLately, I keep wishing someone would hand me a chance card that read “go back 3 spaces.”  Gosh, if I could go back 7 spaces, it would be even better!

I wish I could to go back to my last interaction with my mom before her aneurysm.  I wish I could go back 15 years right before I probably said very hurtful words to someone I shouldn’t have.  I want a do-over.  I wish I could go back to 2011 when I took some time off from full-time ministry and took time to travel and play.  I wish I could do-over the past 10 months. I wish I could do-over the past 2 months.  I wish I could go back to this morning for a do-over and take back stupid and lame things that came out of my mouth.  I want a do-over.

The problem is… not only can I not get a do-over… but even if I were to go back, I only wish to go back with the knowledge and experiences I have now… which is just not possible. It’s impossible to live without any regrets in life… I sure try my best though.  Life is full of mistakes…  regrets… and pain.  There are things I wish I could do-over just about every day.  I ask myself “did I represent Jesus well today?”  and unfortunately, I can always think of a way I didn’t.  Trust me, I’m not the type of person who beats myself over my shortcomings every day… but everyday, I’m reminded how far from perfect and good I am.  I’m also reminded how far from perfect this life is… it’s full of frustrations, pain and tears.

Thankfully, God doesn’t hold my imperfection against me.  Although I keep making mistakes, He’s already forgiven me of stupid things I’ll do in the days, weeks, months, and years to come… and He calls me His.  And while I can’t go back to yesterdays for a do-over, He gives me a do-over every new day.  I have the opportunity to make wrongs right.  I have the opportunity to make wiser decisions, having learned from past mistakes.  I have the opportunity to represent Jesus better tomorrow than I did today.  It doesn’t mean I’ll get it perfect one day… not as long as I live on earth.  But I get a do-over every day when I open my eyes.

Life is still full of frustrations, pain, and tears… thankfully, God knows them all… He knows my frustrations.  He knows my pain.  He knows my tears.  And while not everything is under my control, I get a do-over each day to change my attitude, perspective, and response.  I already have a do-over!

Let.It.Go.

Honestly, it’s getting old.  I’ve been through this before… many times.  I must be stubborn… or dense… or just dumb… I keep making the same mistake over and over… and every time, it feels new.

let it go

I keep thinking that I’m in control of my own life.  I keep thinking I know what’s best for me.  And when things don’t go my way, I get disappointed, hurt, and sad.  And I ask God “why God?”  I ask God “what is your purpose in this?”  I ask God “what is your plan exactly?”  I need to Let.It.Go.  I need to trust that God indeed knows what’s best for my life… and that He’s in control.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I have the need to correct everyone’s misunderstandings, misinformation, or misjudgment.  At least, that’s what I think they are.  I’d like to think it’s because I want people to be well-informed and be fair.  But in actuality, I just feel the need to make them understand things from my point of view.  I need to Let.It.Go.  I need to accept the fact that I can’t change people.  I’m not responsible for people’s decisions and opinions.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I have the tendency to want to fix everything.  I’m a problem-solver by nature… and I get frustrated when I see people spinning the same web over and over again.  I get frustrated when I feel like I have the answer, and yet they don’t seem to get it.  I need to Let.It.Go.  I can’t fix everything for everyone.  I can’t fix people’s attitudes.  I can’t fix their opinions.  I really don’t have all the right answers.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I believe life has many ups and downs.  I believe how you feel about life is dependent on your attitude. I believe every stage of life feels difficult when you’re in it.  I believe it’s necessary to have a good sense of humor about life because otherwise, you’ll want to cry all day.  I believe God doesn’t give us beyond what we can handle.  I probably won’t last a day in your shoes just as you may not last a day in mine.  Trust me, my life is no picnic either.  I believe every tough life stages will eventually pass, and we can overcome.  Lately, I’ve heard so many “woe is me” stories and attitudes.  I just want to shake them and tell them to put life into perspective.  If you have a place to lay your head at night and food to eat, you’re blessed. I want to tell them to just get over it, own your own life, and live it!  But I need to Let.It.Go.  I can encourage people, but I can’t change people–only God can do that.  I can listen to people, but I can’t shake them out of their self-misery forcefully.  I am responsible to people, but I can’t be responsible for people.  I need to Let.It.Go.  By the way, there’s a reason why I didn’t go into counseling (when many people said I should)… I would have been a horrible counselor–God wired me for something else and thankfully the Holy Spirit guided me to listen to Him rather than people.

I keep holding onto emotions that aren’t healthy for me.  I need to surrender every aspect of my life to God.

and Let.It.Go.

Crazy Pills…

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged… Life has been pretty busy, to say the least… I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster ride for the past several months!  And yes, I’ve been feeling like I’m taking crazy pills (remember this from Zoolander?)

If you’ve been around me lately, you have probably heard me say this a lot!  I have always struggled with my identity growing up.  Trying to fit in when you’re not part of the majority has not been easy.  When I was the only asian girl in my elementary school in Kansas, I desperately wanted to wake up one morning with blonde hair and blue eyes.  When I moved to Los Angeles and found myself among other Korean-Americans that looked like me, I realized I was very different from them but desperately tried to fit in by acting like them.  When I found myself in the midst of Korean-American Christian community in college, I struggled to fit the cookie cutter mold of what I perceived to be the perfect Korean-American Christian girl.  I was pretty lousy fitting into that mold, although I’ve always been really good at faking it!

In my late 30s, I no longer care about fitting into a mold.  I just want to be the best ME that God made me… I thought that would be easy, but I’m learning that it’s not easy being me (I’m sure Kermit the Frog can relate).  It’s not easy being me because I don’t fit in any mold that has been expected of me (for the most part).  I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t think like a typical Korean-American, a typical Christian, nor even a typical girl (I guess that’s why I’ve been considered one of the guys most of my life–which is NOT a compliment to a girl nevertheless)!  People tell me that’s what makes me unique and that’s what makes me ME… but when I see people giving me crazy looks after I open my mouth, all I’m thinking is “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”  Thankfully, I have met some kindred spirits along the way… but for some reason, God has not placed me with my kindred spirits currently…  so right now, I’m learning.  I’m learning to be patient.  I’m learning to communicate in ways that people understand.  I’m learning to hold my tongue.  I’m learning to show mercy.  I’m learning to be kind.  I’m learning to forgive.  I’m learning to love.   I’m learning to trust in God’s leading.  I’m learning to feel normal even when I feel like I’m on crazy pills.

CRAZY-PILLS

Becoming a Risk Taker…

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. – Jim Rohn

This may come as a shock, but I’m not the biggest risk taker!  I usually take calculated risks… Sure, I’ve gone skydiving, but in my mind, that’s safer than driving on LA freeways everyday.  I may be adventurous, but I’m not the biggest risk taker.  When I look back upon my life, the biggest regrets I have are not having seized opportunities that were presented to me because it was too big of a risk.

This year, God is really stretching me to take more risks… more risks in church decisions, more risks in children’s ministry, more risks additional ministry opportunities, more risks in life…  And I have to admit that it hasn’t been easy AT ALL!!!  About a month ago, my pastor said “the vision is so compelling that we’re willing to risk failure” in reference to why we were starting an alternative multi-site campus.  His words really stuck with me!  Am I willing to risk failure for things I really believe in?  Am I willing to risk failure for new ideas that I want to implement in ministry?  Am I willing to risk failure for new opportunities that could lead to something great?

This week has been challenging as I’ve been dealing with some pushback from ministry and volunteer leaders.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy for wanting to establish certain culture or idea.  It’s mentally draining at times that I just think about giving in to what is comfortable, easy, and non-confrontational.  Sometimes these thoughts plague me because deep inside, it’s not what I should do.  Do I really want to push for paradigm shift in their idea of ministry?  Am I even the right person?

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Phil Keoghan and his book, “No Opportunity Wasted.”  In the book, he inspires people to challenge themselves, seize opportunities, and live to the fullest without regrets!  In fact, I even made my own NOW list after I finished the book.  Bottom line: it’s not easy… it’s easy to give into something easy and comfortable… but tonight I was reminded that I don’t want to settle for the ordinary in ministry nor in life!