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

Advertisements

honesty

They say honesty is the best policy…  I think most of us would agree, but do we really live by that policy?  In my opinion, I don’t think most people live by what we consider to be the best policy.

I’ve come to value honesty so much in the last few months.  We live in a society where we have to be politically correct, nice, and not hurt other people’s feelings.  Don’t get me wrong–there is nothing wrong with these things… we should be nice , not hurt other people’s feelings, and sometimes be politically correct.  However, sometimes that takes precedence over being honest with people.  We live in a culture where we think being a good friend is always validating their feelings no matter what– and we call that support.

In the last few years, I’ve learned that being a good friend is someone who is honest with you even if it hurts sometimes.  Of course I want my feelings to be justified too… but thankfully I have friends that will be honest with me.  In the past year I’ve had friends who told me that I was being prideful, that I need to get over my hang-ups, that I was being overly sensitive or not sensitive enough, and that I had my head in the clouds.  It’s never pleasant to hear these words from friends… however I know that they speak to me with love and care… and when I really think about it, these are the exact words I need to hear at times because I’m far from perfect and I need correction and a dose of honesty from people who love me!  I’m thankful for these friends because they have had profound impact on me this past year!

I believe God often speaks to me through these amazing people in my life… and I’m so thankful for true community and real support!  Just imagine what our communities would look like if we were more honest!!!  By the way, honesty has to come through the right delivery–with tact and out of love!  I LOVE my honest friends!

Identity

I was born in South Korea, and immigrated to the US as a nine-year old.  Although my dad and I first stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, I was dropped off in Olathe,Kansas within a month to live with my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins.  I had to try my hardest to learn the language and the culture right away.  Surprisingly, this came very easy for me.  I quickly picked up English and found myself assimilating to the midwest culture.  No matter how hard I tried though, there was one thing that I couldn’t change–that I look and still carry some Korean culture within me.  When you’re nine, the last thing you want is to stand out as being different (although everyone else at my school embraced me… almost like a novelty!).  At nights, I would scheme up ways of how I could look “more American”–bleach my hair and I prayed for color contacts to be invented by the time I got older.

The summer after 7th grade, I moved back to Los Angeles to live with my dad.  By then, I pretty much had adapted myself as an American. However, on the first day of school, the only girls that would talk to me were Hispanics and Asians.  I had absolutely no interest in being friends with them.  I wanted to be friends with the “white-American girls.”  However, I learned quickly that in order to survive in school, I would have to make friends… and began to hang out with a group of mostly Asian kids.  In LA, I quickly learned that the different ethnic groups are more segregated than assimilated…  Now, the new name for me was “Asian-American” or “Korean-American.”  Since then, I found a place to belong with other Asians who didn’t quite have love for “our own people.”  We identified ourselves as 1.5 Korean-Americans… and we could make fun of “the fobs” or other old school cultural things.  As time went on, I started to reject Korean culture more and more because I’ve had SO MUCH negative experiences with Koreans that really irked me.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve, for the most part, come to be comfortable in my own skin and be proud of being bi-cultural.  However, I would look down upon other Asian-Americans.  The irony is… I still have and hang out with A LOT of Korean-American friends.  When I resigned from my last church, I told God that I would go anywhere but to another Asian-American ministry.  I’ll save this conversation with God for another blog.

Well, it took my trip to the Dominican Republic to realize something big about myself.  It’s really, really easy for me to love everyone whether they’re Dominican, African, other Latino, European, etc… but it’s really hard for me to love Asians, and especially Koreans.  One of my conversations with one of our translators was about his love, compassion, and pride for his country, people, culture, and life.  At that point, I was deeply ashamed that I didn’t feel the same way towards my Korean heritage.  If anything, I’m often embarrassed by the Korean culture.  After that conversation, I began to converse with God about my feelings toward Asians… and I was convicted of my need to forgive, let-go of my old hang-ups, and embrace Asians-Americans, and especially Korean-Americans.  That was a big challenge and a turning point… and funny that it took a trip to the Caribbean and a simple conversation to really make me think…  this is just the beginning of my crazy journey.

By the way, upon returning from the DR, I had to fly out to Loveland, Colorado, another place where I stand out as the only Asian in the room.  So I had been away from LA for close to 2 weeks when I went to meet my friend for lunch at a Korean restaurant, and upon seeing a crowd of Asians, I stopped on my tracks, gasped, and took a DEEP breath, looked up as if to say “here I go, God!” and walked into the restaurant.  This journey continues… so stay tuned!

indebted…

I am ridiculously blessed…

I have been a recipient of unimaginable kindness and generosity of family and friends throughout my life… I thought about writing them all down, but it would literally take me days, but here are few to give you an idea:

  • My grandparents along with my aunts & uncles took me in and raised me for four years after my mom passed away.  At the time, I had no idea how much they gave… but they put me through school, very expensive piano lessons from a college professor, and everything else I needed.
  • 2 Grandmas and 7 aunts stepped in to take on the role of my mom… they did a bunch of mom-duties such as taking me to get my ears pierced, taking me shopping, life talks, etc…
  • A relative wired me $2,000 when my financial aid took forever to come through during my sophomore year in college.  With that money, I paid for my rent, food, books, etc…
  • Many friends put me up on weekends when I attended seminary in LA, and commuted up to SF to do ministry for three years!  All of them were gracious hosts, and some even gave me a spare key.
  • My friend gifted me a $500 digital camera when I mentioned that I wanted a camera to take photos on my trip to Brazil (this is when digital cameras first came out, and costed this much–that was for 5 mega-pixels, and we were “wow” over it).
  • My friends lent me their car to drive for months after my car was broken into for the 3rd time out of my driveway.
  • And of course, I have to mention countless free meals I have enjoyed from my pastors, friends, and family members… and this is important to mention because FOOD is my love language!
  • I’m constantly told that I’m being prayed for… via email, text, facebook, phone calls, and in person!
  • And the latest… a friend voluntarily paid for my airfare to Dominican Republic, a service trip coming up in less than 2 weeks.

I have mentioned a lot of BIG things above… but I’ve been blessed in so many small ways as well… including all the rides my friends gave me to airports, which is A LOT!!!  When I think about how much I have received from so many people, I feel indebted to them… and there isn’t enough “thank you’s” to express how grateful I am.  What’s even more amazing is that they all did it without expecting anything in return!!!  Seriously???  Each one of these amazing people in my life have extended the love of Jesus to me in tangible ways!  It’s overwhelming to be on the receiving end!

I know some other people in my life whose mantra is “don’t let anyone do anything really nice for you because they’re always going to want something in return.”  They calculate everyone’s kindness… and it makes me sad.

I couldn’t possibly repay everyone for their generosity in my life.  I feel indebted to so many.   Most of all, I’m indebted to Jesus, my Savior.  Thankfully, Jesus willingly died and rose again for my sins, and He doesn’t expect me to repay Him.  What He wants is for me to love Him with my heart, soul, and mind… and to live a life that overflows out of my growing love for Him.

I have been incredibly loved and blessed by so many… I can’t help but to feel indebted, but it’s being replaced by this thing called love & grace.  It’s not about feeling the need to repay, but being humble enough to graciously accept love and generosity of others… and to extend that love and generosity to others…

church…

I have been thinking about this whole topic of church for a very long time… and I kept procrastinating about writing down my real thoughts… partly because this could be a very sensitive subject, and I could offend a lot of people out there.  In addition, my vocation is in ministry, so I, of all people, am not “suppose to say anything negative” about church (at least not out loud)… but this has been so in my face lately that I just felt the need to let it out!

In the past few months, I’ve had about dozen conversations with friends and acquaintances who all have stopped attending church.  It’s not that they don’t believe in Jesus anymore… but due to circumstances or because they just can’t find a church where they can connect, learn, and grow.  If they had told me this few years ago, my response would have been, “suck it up!  there are no perfect churches out there… and you’re probably the one with issues so just get over it!”  Now, after having visited many churches for the past 7 months, I have a lot of sympathy for my friends.  In fact, I have even uttered these words: “a lot of churches just suck… and it just feels like many are playing church!”  yes… i actually said those words out loud…

Before I continue, I have to make clear that I DO believe in the Church, even with all of its imperfections.  And regardless of all the weaknesses of churches, God continues to do beautiful things in and through them… so I don’t mean to criticize all the churches.  And I know that there are some great churches out there!  Recently, I read a friend’s blog, and I think he sums it up pretty well in regards to people’s hangup with church (yes, I got his permission to use an excerpt!):

*Morality -> Judgment -> Fakeness -> Guilt/Shame. Most churches and church-goers that I’ve seen are more concerned with morality (or their version of it) than about genuine growth, never on paper but always in practice. I tend to associate church with judgment more than anything else. For a religion that starts with the idea that all men are evil and broken, everyone seems to have their stuff together and in turn seems to expect the same from everyone else.  Perhaps it’s my own fault, but I don’t feel comfortable being myself at church. I don’t feel accepted as me. I have to put the mask on and play by the rules. I almost feel like I have to apologize for being who I am and get the sense that I’m not “good enough” to be at church, which makes zero theological sense and is really the opposite of what church should be about. I’ve told a lot of people that I would probably find more spiritual substance at an AA meeting than a church service. I don’t need or want to “play church” every Sunday with all the other actors (To be fair, I’ve known several exceptions, but I’m speaking for the vast majority). And I’ve gotten past feeling guilty about not going, so that’s no longer a reason for me to go.

*More religion than relationship, more performance than partnership. Church services, probably by necessity, tend to feel more like a routine series of events than a true celebration of life and community. Half the people seem to be there to blindly follow whatever they’re taught while the other half are there to expand their social network. When my students ask me if I’m Christian, I respond by saying, “It depends on what you mean by ‘Christian’.” (I really hate that title… it carries a lot of baggage for me.) Christianity to me is not a “religion,” and church is not about ritual. I do know that I’m far from being perfect and am loved anyways.

Unfortunately, I completely echo his sentiment!  I’ve heard some disturbing, sad stories from my friends in the past few months.  Many have left because they can’t find churches that are authentic, relational, and real.  They feel judged, they feel like pastors care more about programs and numbers than people, they feel like they’re not good enough to be at church… part of this may be perceived… but I don’t think it’s an accident that I’ve had so many of these conversations in the past few months.  Some churches are really missing the point–actually most of us Christians are missing the point… because isn’t Christianity about God who loved us so much to send Jesus to take away our sins through His sacrifice–LOVE???  If we can’t love people, then I don’t think we’re doing a good job of being the Church… what good is teaching the truth if we can’t demonstrate the truth in love?

The morning after I posted this blog, I came across this interview.  Definitely worth a read:

Why are people turning their backs on church?

My Father’s Heart…

“Do you know how old you are?”  my dad asks this question quite frequently.

“Yup, I know what year I was born.”  I always answer back with sarcasm.

“You’re 40!”

“No, I’m not!!!  Not yet… not for another 2 years!”  I exclaim.

“In Korean age, you’re 39.. that’s almost 40!”  Dad says as he rolls his eyes.

“Korean age is stupid!  I’m not 40 yet…  I’m 38!”  also rolling my eyes…

(by the way, this conversation is funnier when said in Korean with lots of sarcasm–my typical conversation with my dad!)

So apparently my dad also knows how old I am, but it doesn’t stop him from treating me like I’m still 12 years old.  Perhaps it’s because in his old school Korean mind, I’m still his responsibility because I’m not married.  He spent so many years teaching me to be independent, and now that I’m an adult, he still sees me as someone who needs his guidance and help.  I understand that to a certain extent, this is the heart of a parent.  I see that my 94 year old grandfather still worries about my 69 year old dad.  Some things don’t change…  however, we’re at a crossroads where I feel the need and want to take care of my dad as I see him aging, and he also wants to take care of me… thus, we keep butting heads!  That’s a new one!

When we took a short vacation last week to visit my cousin in Boston, half of our argument was over who was going to carry the bags.   This is so lame… it sounds even more lame as I see the words being typed.  I had a rolling carry-on which was heavy due to a wooden train set that was packed for my cousin’s kid.  My dad had much lighter duffel bag.  I kept insisting on putting the duffel bag on top of my rolling bag so I can pull both.  My dad kept insisting that he pull the bags.  I know that we were both trying to serve the other… but our argument over who is going to carry/roll the bags got absolutely ridiculous that I just gave in.

We also kept fighting over who is going to pay for things!!!  Once again, LAME!!!  Okay, part of this is very Korean… but also it’s out of pure desire to take care of the other person that we kept fighting over who was going to pay for what!  My dad always apologizes to me during our tender moments that happen twice a year (my birthday and his birthday).  He says he hasn’t done enough for me, when I feel like he’s sacrificed everything for me (this is where we both cry…)  So I understand his heart to want to give as much as he can, and I feel guilty because I feel like he always gives and I always take… thus, my attempt to want to give back… and this usually takes form of paying for each other.

And then my dad kept getting annoyed that I hadn’t told him what we had planned for each day.  In my attempt to give my dad a worry-free, relaxing vacation, I had made plans with my cousin and didn’t tell my dad play-by-play account of our schedule.  Now, you must understand that my type-A, control-freak, my-way-is-better personality comes from my dad!!! So when you have two control-freaks together, it’s bound to be trouble!  When I finally told my dad about our planned schedule, he misunderstood and was very unhappy.  He wanted to re-work our plans, which led to another argument.  At this point, I almost regretted taking this trip!

Saturday night, I was in bed thinking about our weird relationship… and two things distinctly came to me.

1.  Why is it that we have least amount of patience with the people we love the most?  It’s the people we love that have the ability to get under our skin, annoy the heck out of us, and have very short temper with…. only to have regrets in the end… Why is that?  It’s something I’ve always struggled with… I get short-tempered with my dad or my grandparents, and I regret it afterwards…  I know I need to change… but why is it like that???

2.  Just as I think I know best when it comes to my dad, I realized that I think I know best when it also comes to my Heavenly Father.  By the way, I don’t believe there is an earthly relationship that perfectly exemplifies our relationship with God… but the best I can come up with is how I’ve learned the most about God’s love for me through my dad’s love for me.  I don’t believe my dad always knows best… but I DO believe God knows best.  However, my controlling nature tells me that I know best… and I try to impose my ways on God all the time… and I often don’t hear Him out.  I don’t trust that My Father in Heaven knows what’s best for me. 😦  Just as I argue with my dad, I argue with God. (and this is where I feel like I suck!)

My final thought before I went to bed that night:  both my earthly father and heavenly Father’s hearts come down to this–undying, sacrificial love for me… and then I was overwhelmed by that love.

where is the love?

One day, I was hanging out with a friend, and she said something that really got me thinking.

C:  Gloria, I can’t believe that I’m friends with you, a children’s pastor.

Me:  Why?  Why does it matter whether I’m a children’s pastor or not?

C:  Because you’re a devout christian, and you like serve in the church… and you’re the only one who is still friends with me after I stopped going to church.  And I don’t feel like you judge me for not going to church.  You’re like really my friend.  And it’s not like you’re a different person when you’re at church from when you hang out with me.  I just never thought I’d be friends with someone like that.

Me:  (confused…)  uhm… I think that’s a compliment, right?  Why would I judge you?  I do wish you would go back to church, but I can’t make you do stuff… and why would I stop being friends with you just because you stopped going to church?

C:  Because everyone else has…

Me:  (speechless…)  that makes me sad… I’m sorry…

It’s been over a decade, and I never forgot this conversation.  Should I be bringing up Jesus in our conversation more?  Should I be happy and satisfied that she finds a good friendship in me?  Should I apologize to her on behalf of all christians and churches that have hurt her?  Should I rebuke or correct our friends that have abandoned her?

Some of the recent events have led me to think about my conversation with this friend.  There’s been a lot of debate over Rob Bell’s book about hell, and then there was the whole Judgment Day debacle.. and I came across this blog titled “An Open Apology for the Church” by Joe Boyd which got me thinking about how Christians have made a lot of errors along the way.  Of course, Christians are imperfect humans; and the reality is that Christians will make many mistakes, even hurt people (hopefully unintentionally.. otherwise that’s just mean).  Christians want non-Christians to know that we are just as imperfect as anyone else and that we need forgiveness and grace.  However, when the tables are turned, I am not sure if we show as much grace and love to others.

When “Love Wins” by Rob Bell was under hot debate, I was more disappointed and saddened by hurtful, unloving words that were publicly exchanged between pastors and theologians.  When the “Judgement Day” came and went, I was more disappointed and saddened by sarcastic, patronizing words that were said, tweeted, and posted by Christians.  And I am just as guilty of this… afterall, sarcasm runs through my blood (you should meet my dad, apparently sarcasm is an inherited trait).  I’ve joked around with friends about Harold Camp and his predictions.  I’ve snickered and rolled my eyes.  But the more I thought about this, I realized that once again, we weren’t responding to the situation in love… and as far as my non-Christian friends could see, we were poking fun just as much as anyone else, if not more.  It’s no wonder that we send a very mixed message to non-Christians… and they often associate churches with likes of Westboro Baptist.  Today, I read a tweet by Anderson Cooper:   “That’s not a church, and I don’t think about them ever // RT @____ what r your thoughts of Westboro Baptist Church coming to #Joplin”  I agree, it’s not a church that Christ had intended… but many people don’t have a clear understanding of what church is suppose to be, and they just see Westboro Baptist as a bad church.  😦

I respect that many Christians want the truth to be told and understood.  But sometimes I feel that our love of knowledge of the truth gets in the way of responding in love.  Perhaps that just means we know the truth, but we don’t practice the truth.  And when non-Christians see the way we react to various situations, how are we exemplifying the love of Christ?  How did my friend feel the love of Christ when she felt abandoned and judged by those she thought were her friends after she left the church?  How did believers of May 31 Rapture feel the love of Christ when Christians poked fun at them instead of helping them to see the truth with gentleness?  And what did children and youth learn when they saw “exemplary” adult Christians respond in such ways?  Seriously, where is the love, the love of Christ?

Something to think about… by the way, yes, I know that Black Eyed Peas sing about this very subject…  and yes, I still keep in touch with my friend via email after she got married and moved across the country.  She’s still seeking…