My little girl Norah, 6 years old asked me this question about 2 nights ago before going to bed. I was amazed that she would ask such a question. She knew that heaven was a place that we all go when we die. I think that is wonderful that she knows this concept.
I feel that the only way she would even know this concept is because of our church and because of her coming to Sunday School. I am impressed that she can pick up things so much at church. I rarely tell her anything about church at home. Maybe at bedtime when we read stories in the Bible, but that is about it. I don’t think I have ever told her anything about heaven. So, I have many thanks to the church and the Sunday School teachers for guiding her well in Christian education.
So, if you wondered how I answered her this question, here it is. Heaven is a place that people in the Bible thought was “up there.” But in reality, heaven is a place that we can’t see or physically go when we are alive. It is like a realm that we can’t search on our own. It is a place that has no boundaries and no time. There is no place in our human world that exists.
But also, we can find truth’s of heaven within us. It is those moments when we feel peace, love, and joy. Those moments cannot be captured in time and when you feel those moments, we feel that time, obligation, worry, and stress disappear. Sometimes those moments are short, but we experience them every day. And that is like God telling us, He is here with us, it’s like God is giving us a big hug when we experience those moments of peace, love, and joy.
Norah just looked at me… not too sure if any of that made sense to her. Then I sang Belinda Carlisle’s song, “Heaven on Earth.” You know…
Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth.
They say in Heaven, love comes first.
We’ll make Heaven a place on Earth.
Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth.
So… she decided Daddy’s sings isn’t good enough and went to bed. So, Sunday School teachers, I leave it to you to do what you do best! Because apparently Pastor Daddy is awfully confusing to a 6 year old.
That’s right. In everything you do, put full effort into it. Give it everything you got. I need to share this story because it made my day, and I am sure that it made other people’s day as well.
So, Eunkyung, my wife, is in her last semester in the BSN program at Mount Aloysius College. It is demanding, exhausting, and time consuming. But I am proud that she has done so well and has so much enthusiasm to one day be a nurse and hopefully work at UPMC Altoona. So today she had her clinical day at UPMC Altoona. She arrives at 6:45am and comes home around 7:30pm. Today, was an exciting day… let me explain.
So apparently when she arrived, she was told that they are practicing a drill in the case that a mass tragedy has occurred. She will be acting as one of the many patients coming in for medical help. The scene is that a mass shooting has occurred, and she is a victim of a head trauma. She is elected to go first.
And she hams it up! She walks into the room and scream, “Ahh!! My head, my neck!” Causing a scene. Apparently other people decided not to act out like her. However, she realized that the nurses were having a good time and laugh over her performance. I am proud of her in going 110% in that activity and everything she is doing.
The story made me laugh and made my day and I am sure it made other people’s day as well. I am sure they probably never seen anything like that before. Working in health care is tough. It is stressful and sometimes it can feel unappreciated. I hope Eunkyung helped these workers relax, even if it only temporary.
Go all out on everything you do, even if it feels embarrassing. Make every effort to do any task well and put your heart into it. Faith is as such. Jesus never told us to go 50% or 75%. He wanted 100%. Faith is not about picking up the stuff in the Bible that you like and forget about the challenging stuff. It isn’t about picking and choosing. Faith and all matters of faith is supposed to be challenging. Christian life of faith is about all things. It is about reading the Bible and praying, going to church, practicing love and kindness, and showing compassion and mercy, and always asking and accepting forgiveness. None of these are easy, and most likely for most of us, we are lacking in one, two, or three of these categories. Putting in 100% takes practice, it takes time, it even takes sacrifice of time, emotions, comfort, and pride. But by applying all these things, doing 100% is going to be like clockwork, a new sense of normal, and becomes routine.
So, football season has started. Ohio State Buckeyes look a bit suspect. Some of you may know, that’s my team and I have to admit, they look overrated. Penn State has a tough schedule, but they look like they can compete. My hometown, Cincinnati Bearcats look like a force and shouldn’t be slept on. My Cincinnati Bengals are well, young. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win because of their toughness, I think they need to rely on Najee Harris big time.
So normally, I talk up my Buckeyes, Bengals, and Bearcats and I trash talk the Steelers, Nittany Lions, and anything PA. But this year, I think their has been a change of feelings. I’m trying to root for Penn State, just because their QB is from my hometown. And I currently really enjoy watching the Steelers play. So I decided that I will cheer on any PA sports team, unless they are playing my favorite teams or that I need them to lose in order for my favorite teams to get ahead in their respective leagues.
It makes me wonder if I am starting to see PA as my home away from home. Well, in a way it is! There is a ton of love about PA. The people are friendly, the church is amazing, the fishing is great. I mean I live in a place I can literally fish all year around. Late March to November I can fish for largemouth bass, and December to March I can fish the creeks for trout. It can’t get any better.
I am mostly writing this blog to say thank you for all the people of PA. You have helped make my family and myself feel a part of your family. The church I work at, is incredible. I cannot imagine a better place that God has called me to serve. I still think I am learning, day in and day out in how to be a better leader. This is truly a church that acts as one body with many parts. Not all of us are the same, we are all different, but at the end of the day we are a family. I give special thanks to the Altoona School district for educating my children well and making them feel safe and confident.
Since we have moved to Altoona, my wife received her US citizenship, my daughter has gone from 2 to almost 7 and my son Ben was born, now three. My wife is now one semester away finishing her BSN to work as a nurse in what we hope to be UPMC Altoona. As a pastor at Ward Ave Presbyterian Church I have done funerals, weddings, baptisms, communion, made a new website, developed new activities and revitalized some old ones, and have seen the hearts of people grow in the congregation. We have been through a lot. We have gone through COVID, and still going through it and doing our best to be safe, yet stay active, and serve. We have done works in local missions and international.
Now I have come to the point in which I couldn’t imagine ten years ago. Cheering for any PA sports team. It’s crazy how God works to change hearts.
God bless you all
We all dream at night. Sometimes we remember them,, sometimes we forget them. Sometimes we have happy dreams, and sometimes we have nightmares. Sometimes we have realistic dreams and sometimes we have unrealistic dreams. Sometimes our dreams are so realistic that they feel like it just happened and sometimes those unrealistic dreams are just off the wall, bonkers. But regardless of the dream we have, do they mean anything? If you read the book Daniel in the bible, dreams could mean something right? Can dreams tell you about the future, a warning, or maybe nothing at all? Or is it that some dreams mean something and other dreams are just meaningless.
So, I had a dream last night and it was one of those weird dreams. Let me tell you about it. But first a little background story about myself.
Some people know this, but other’s don’t. I am a huge UFC fan. I really enjoy it, a lot. Also I like listening to Joe Rogen’s pod cast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” I have to tell you this before I tell you my dream, or it might not make any sense.
Also, readers, you need to know (to understand my dream) Joe Rogan is also a commentator in the UFC. Dana White is the president of the UFC.
Ok, let’s begin with my dream. In my dream I find myself on a stage surrounded by a ton of people. We are having a good time and I don’t see any recognizable faces. Suddenily, a man grabs my arm and says, “You have to come with me, Dana White needs to talk to you.” I go, as if, in my dream, I know Dana White.” So then I see Dana White, and he looks serious. Dana White tells me, “Hey man, listen, I just heard that Joe Rogan is COVID positive. So that means you have to quarantine for two weeks since you had had close contact with him recently.” In my dream, I was shocked, not shocked that I knew Dana White or Joe Rogan, but shocked that I could have COVID-19. Then I felt angry at Joe Rogan. Then I wondered how this will effect my family, my church, and my friends. Now continuing in the dream, I am worried about what symptoms I am going to get, and as I get ready to quarantine, I see Joe Rogan chatting with some guys. I couldn’t believe he isn’t quarantining himself. I was furious. I decided I would confront Joe Rogan, and then I woke up from my dream. I woke up still angry at Joe Rogan. Until I realized everything was just a dream.
Yeah, pretty weird dream. But all the elements in the dream made sense to who I am and what I have been feeling. Every time my children go to school, I fear how safe they are from COVID-19. Every now and then we get emails telling us that a child in the school was COVID-19 positive and all the direct contact people have been notified and are quarantined. So far, my children have stayed safe, thank God! So the dream obviously had my worries about COVID included in what I feel and experience daily nowadays. Also the dream included my love for the UFC and Joe Rogan Experience. But does this dream mean anything?
Is this dream supposed to be a warning? That warning be stay away from Joe Rogan if you see him? No. Is it telling me that my children or myself or Eunkyung will get COVID? No. I don’t think this dream is telling about the future at all. However, in Korean culture, if you see a famous person in your dream, doesn’t matter the context of the dream, it means you will have good luck coming your way. That’s kinda cool to think about, and I saw two famous people… oh yeah, double the luck!
But I do think that this dream and maybe most or some dreams may tell us how we are feeling. I think it interprets our consciousness into certain pictures. It is obvious that COVID has been part of all of our lives for a very long time. It affects all of us and even at times worries us. But what good is it to fear? We can be precautious, but we don’t have to fear or worry. I shouldn’t let me fears get to the best of me and I think after thinking about this dream, I think I shouldn’t fear any of this. The dream was ridiculous and well sometimes what we worry about can be so consuming that it debilitates us and makes us powerless, that too is ridiculous.
This weekend I recommend everyone to visit the United Flight 93 memorial that is near Indian Lake. It is only about an hour away from Altoona. Coming Saturday, will be the 20th year anniversary of the Sept 11th Attack.
I will not say much about this, but have prepared a worship service and message regarding this event on Sunday, Sept. 12th. Visit that site. The site that 40 passengers gave their life to prevent an attack on our nations Capitol Building. 37 US citizens, 1 German, 1 Kiwi, and 1 Japanese sacrificed their life after hearing those other attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These passengers prevented and stopped the terrorist’s plan.
Pray for the victims of the crash and pray that their families found peace. Honor Flight 93, and look at each name. Never forget wheat these people represent. That is the tough decision of survival. This may have been their only option for survival. So if you find yourself with your backs against the wall, never give up.
I wished the outcome could have been different for Flight 93. They had to make a tough decision. Their efforts will not be forgotten. But their heroism, sacrifice, and altruistic decision will be a learning lesson for my life and something I can pass on to my children. Act collectively, show unity, and never think that you have no options in this world. Regardless of the outcome, live your life well to the very end.
I learned a couple thing about being sunburned, thanks to my mistake of getting sunburned at Ocean City. Funny enough, as painfully and itchy my week has been dealing with a sunburn, it also taught me a little bit about faith. It’s funny how God can take something horrible and make it as a point of encouragement in other aspects of life.
First what I learned is the sun is hot enough to burn the skin even with an application of strong sunscreen. So, always remember to re-apply it, so you don’t have to suffer the agonizing pains of being sunburned. Also, it was really weird though. The only parts that got sunburned are the parts that never were exposed to the sun. So basically, it looks like I have a bright red t-shirt on right now. But my arms and legs and face, and neck that were tanned from going out fishing, never got sunburned. So, it brings me to the second thing I learned.
Thanks to Judy Werner, she made me realize that getting a little tan might have been helpful in order to not get burned. I should have talked to her before I left for Ocean City. Not too sure what the science behind that is, but possibly the tan on the skin allows the skin to get used to the sun, so it doesn’t feel the sun as something traumatic. Or possibly the tan gives the skin a natural sunblock. I really don’t know. But all I know is that the tanned skin never got sunburned, while the parts that stayed covered up from the sun, suddenly exposed to the sun’s rays got burned.
So, this is the metaphor I will use to talk about faith. Number one, always re-apply. Faith isn’t something that you just get, and the world will suddenly all make sense. Learning about God, and how God operates in our world today isn’t something that just happens when we are young and we went to Sunday School, learn Jesus Loves Me song, and other warm fuzzy things about God’s love. We have to keep learning about God, because life is full of situations that can give us headaches and the world is full of complicated issues. Without, understanding the Bible throughout your life, you will feel stress when life’s rollercoaster ride begins. Without, going to church, going to Sunday School, or even joining in on fellowship events, we will feel lost in a complex world. You must always re-apply those things that help you understand faith more, and how every life situation is not just coincidental, but has possible real meaning that can bring you closer to God. Don’t just go to church once a week, don’t stop coming to Sunday School, don’t just come to event now and then, or when it fits in with your crazy life schedule. Do these things as a habit in your life; always re-apply.
Second metaphor is that getting tanned is ok. Life will leave you with bruises, scrapes, cuts, scars, and burns. That doesn’t mean that life is meaningless, pointless, or always full of pain and sorrow. It is true; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We all carry burdens, but we should never think those burdens mean nothing, or that those burdens are going to always weigh you down. Those burdens can make you stronger. Sometimes in life we need to get tanned so that when we really face the heat, we will not be burned by it.
Now that doesn’t mean that we need to go out looking for trouble! Well, we really shouldn’t because sometimes trouble is just looking for us anyways. We don’t have perfect lives, but we should think that in those moment of imperfection will help us in the future during another stressful time. Getting a tan can offer protection for the future.
So, remember, re-apply, and don’t sweat the scrapes and burdens in life. And it is possible that through re-applying knowledge of the Bible, companionship with fellow congregation members, and Sunday worship, will help you not get burned, but just give you a nice tanning, so that future stressful situations will feel less traumatic. God bless you all, I gotta get more aloe, it’s killing me sitting in this office chair.
So, I am back from Ocean City, MD which was awesome! It was our first family vacation in about 7 years or so. I mean first vacation that we didn’t see grandparents, friends, or anything like that. It was just us, and it was amazing. We stayed in a great AirBnB condo right off the bay, the beaches were amazing, and Hurricane Henri missed us. We only got a heavy thunderstorm on one day for like 30 minutes. We lucked out on great weather and we took advantage of that to create some great memories!
But some memories can be forgotten. So, my question to you all. How do you sign language to your daughter that is swimming in the ocean that there are a ton of dolphins out just on the other side of the waves? Let me tell you, putting your hands together and putting it on top of your head is not the right symbol. Yeah, she looked at me, and started panicking. Then, not only her, but everyone around me also saw what I was doing, and everyone yelled, “SHARK!” And then a chain event happened. Soon, people cleared the way, and I tried to yell, “No SHARK! I meant DOLPHINS!” Then everyone saw that there was a giant pod of dolphins swimming by. Cool thing to see!
But seriously, how to you get someone’s attention through sign language to show them there are “dolphins.” Anyone have any idea? Anyways, I have a ton of stories form Ocean City that I will share one more next week on the blog.
It’s good to be back home, it’s good to feel rested, and rejuvenated. Now It’s time to take that energy and bringing it to work! God bless you all!
When I first moved to Altoona, Ray Pursley drove me around town, just to show me where is where. I thought that was really nice for him to do and made me feel very comfortable knowing some of the places around the city.
I remember as we were driving and talking, heading back to the house after passing by Altoona UPMC. Ray was telling me that everyone in Altoona is very nice, and that people are well mannered. Then we passed one house on the left that looked unique. The number of colors, décor, and other outdoor lawn items really made the house stick out. There was a brief moment of silence as we passed this house. Maybe ray was reading my mind or possible we were thinking the same thing. Ray then says, “We also have some characters in this town as well.” Now if you are the homeowner of that particular house reading this blog, I am sharing this not to make fun of it, but to uplift it. But I am also assuming you might not care what other people think as well. It was a delightful experience.
All of us have some sort of uniqueness. But I do not know if you are like me, but I always tend to think that I am just like everyone else, you know… normal. I try to strive for normalcy. I do not like to do anything that makes me stick out. I just want to fit it, blend in, and just be like everyone else. But that is the problem, because what if everyone is different and unique, then what is normal anyways?
How do you eat strawberries? This question will make sense, trust me. First of all being unique is something that just happens. You really don’t need to try to be unique or different, it just will come out. And sometimes when you think you do, behave and act like everyone else, you might come to the point that you will do something that nobody else does. So how do you eat strawberries. You see, it took me a while, actually about 30 years of my life, realizing that I eat strawberries differently from other people. My buddy, Luke eats strawberries like I do. Which is… just eating it whole… like popcorn. I thought that is how everyone eats strawberries. I didn’t know that people don’t eat the green thing on the top. I didn’t know that people take multiple bites of one strawberry and stop when they hit the green part. Yeah, I really thought you just eat the whole darn thing in one pop. It took me a while to realize that I am different. My wife gave me a double take when I ate a strawberry in front of her and then asked me, why I ate it like that. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Does that make it wrong how I eat strawberries? Maybe to some, or most. Is it weird how I eat them, probably? But whatever, that’s just how I eat them. We are all somewhat weird and unique, nothing to e ashamed about. God created all of us in His own image. God gave us different passions, different wills, different behaviors, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I wonder if God made us so different from one another with a certain purpose. Maybe that purpose is that don’t try to fit in with people, because it will never work. Nobody is the same, because the only thing that we can connect our sameness is not with other people, but with God. Yes, God who made us all in His image. That means each and everyone of us are common to God. All that weirdness, uniqueness is all about who God is. God is more diverse than we can possibly imagine.
So, if you feel different form other people, and feel like you don’t belong, well maybe that is because you are looking for belongingness in the wrong places. Maybe it’s time you find your comfort in God’s love. Acceptance in society is hard to completely have. Connecting yourself to self interest groups can have its limitations. But in God, you belong, you are part of His plan, you are His creation, made in His image, righteous in His eyes, always and completely.
A few years back, my father gave us some small Korean perilla plants. They are leaves that is common in most Korean cuisines. They have this beautiful minty aroma and quite delicious to eat with Korean barbeque. Not too difficult to cultivate, which is perfect for us since we are quite novice when it comes to taking care of plant life.
Each year they grew, and we ate the harvest. Every year they would pollinate and basically became self-sustainable. However, in this year, didn’t see them sprout. So, we thought because of the weather, heat, or soil condition in our pots, made them unable to flourish. The weeds really took over our pots, and we just let them grow. We thought we lost our harvest for good.
But too my surprise, after leaving it unattended to for the duration of spring and summer, and letting enormous weeds grow in those pots, I found out that they survived and thrived. Thanks to Ben wanting to play with worms outside, I looked into the pots and realized that the Korean perilla plant was growing among the thorny weeds. I was shocked because some of those plants really grew into full maturity and hopefully in late fall and winter, they will produce flowers and seeds once again.
It’s amazing to think that these plants were able to flourish in such harsh conditions. Surrounded by weeds, and unattended needs to grow well, these Korean perilla plants grew.
This reminds me of the passage in Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the weeds. Jesus tells the disciples that a gardener came to plant the seeds but at night an enemy came in and spread weeds among the good seeds. When the good seeds started to grow, it grew among the weeds. The gardener’s workers asked if they should pull out the weeds, and the gardener urges the workers not to do so because it may uproot the good plants. The gardener instructs the workers to allow both the weeds and good plant grow together until it was time for the harvest. At harvest time, take the good plants that produced and pull out the weeds and burn them in the fire.
When I look at this story and look at these Korean perilla plants it makes me reflect on life in general. Sometimes we aren’t always put in the best circumstances in life. And sometimes we are put fail to live up the expectations of the Gospel of taking care of one another with grace, kindness, love, and care. I know this for myself, that sometimes I always wish that I was a better leader in the church or a better father to my children, or a better husband to my wife. But this passage in Matthew and the situation of the Korean perilla plants reminds me of always having hope. No matter what happens, things will always work out in the end.
Do you feel that you failed to live up to certain expectations of life's demands? Maybe you might feel like the workers or gardener in Matthew 13:24-30. And maybe you feel guilty for leaving all those thorns and weeds and feel that you didn’t take care of your corner of the world well. But remember, God’s got this. Nothing is necessarily left for chance or luck. It is only by God’s grace that allow things to work out in the end, regardless of your efforts. Maybe you feel like the good plants that find yourself surrounded by weeds. Again, weeds happen in life. Nobody’s life is perfect and not every situation to come across will be calm and peaceful. Sure, I order to survive, you may have to compete or fight your way through the weeds given in your life, but that’s ok. Again, stand firm, keep trying, stay true to yourself, and have faith in a God that will pull you out of every situation.
So, my garden in the backyard is alive. It doesn’t look perfect, but that’s life right? God bless you all.
Bass fishing is a hobby for me. I love it. The problem is that bass fishing can get very complex when we talk about artificial baits, lures, rods, and reels. Is it possible to have one rod and reel exclusively to catch bass? Well… sorta… yeah… I mean, Norah caught a 1.5lb largemouth bass on her kiddie barbie rod.
But why is bass fishing so complicated? The problem lies in the type of fishing you are doing. Most exclusively I am always using artificial lures, and that is where the complexity begins. Artificial lures come in so many different colors and weights, and each lure has a specific way it must be fished. Some lures are used to fish the bottom, some lures are fished in the middle of the water column, and some lures are fished on the top water. Some lures are good around rocks, some good in brush piles, some good in weeds, some are good on calm days, and some are good on windy days, some are good on sunny days, some good on cloudy days…. And the various colors need to match the occasion of the water clarity and temperature.
Yeah, there are a lot to think about when trying to catch largemouth bass effectively and consistently. That being said about artificial lures, you have your various types of fishing rods. Each rod that I own is so uber specific on the type of lure that I want to use. Each rod has a specific weight limit, and each rod has a certain “power” or “stiffness” and each rod has there own “bend.” All these factors play an important part in catching bass effectively.
But the question is… have I become a better angler with the increase of rods, reels, and artificial lures? And the truth is… yes. I definitely can say I put more fish on the bank as I have increased my rod, reels, and lures collection. I catch more fish, lose a lot less fish, and also increased my interest in using unique lures that come out in the market every year.
Now this doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish with only one rod and reel set up. You can, of course. But it’s just easier to fish for bass with more gear. Also, it is less worry and hence more confidence in fishing with different rod and reel set ups.
Basically, the more “tools” you have the better advantage you have in successfully being a better angler, when it comes to bass fishing. So the reason why I am talking about “fishing” is a metaphor about our Christian faith. If you want your faith to grow, you need tools. The more the merrier.
Can you still be a Christian with less tools, or course! But if you really wan to grow in your faith and have a stronger faith, I do believe you need or tools and resources. You can be a Christian through your baptism, which is fine and just leave it like that, maybe go to church every once in a while, like on Easter and Christmas. You are still going to be a child of God. But if you are wondering why you feel less confidence, less secure, less faith… well you need more resources to help your faith grow and be stronger.
Some of the tools you need to strengthen or grow your faith are prayer, bible study, church, and fellowship. Each one of these “tools” have a certain purpose towards faith strengthening. And you need each one of these tools to enhance your faith, build your confidence, and live a better life.
Ask yourself these questions. How often do you go to church? How often do you read the Bible? How often do you really pray (like as in close your eyes, cuff your hands, sit or kneel, and talk to God)? When you pray what do you talk about? How often do you go to fellowship and church events? Are you satisfied with the answers to these above questions or do you feel embarrassed? At the end of these questions do you feel confident or less confident?
The crazy part is that we can all do more. It’s true. None of us have the perfect answer to the questions above. And even if you answer all those questions confidently and feel good, it does not mean that everything in your life is going to be always great. But it is possible to think that if we focus on doing these questions above more, we may a better self-esteem, a better confidence when we hit those “not-so-great days.”
Sometimes in life, more is better, especially when it comes to bass fishing and Christian faith.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).