I think whenever we here the phrase, “We plan, God laughs,” we think that God is laughing at our plans, at the same time shaking his head and muttering, “you silly people, you know nothing!” Which can be true, but what if we think that whenever we plan, God is enjoying our plan and laughing in excitement? Instead of thinking that there is some overbearing God who is altering the lives of His lowly subjects, we have a God who is with us, in our plans, making miracles possible.
It has been about a bit over two months since our church doors re-opened for regular worship. It was the first time since March, the beginning of the pandemic, that we opened. What was our decision to open? It took careful thought and careful planning, and a whole lot of prayers, and gathering of resources. This wasn’t a sudden decision, but a well timed plan in order to assure that our sanctuary will always be safe and secure. We would not open if we felt that it couldn’t be done or that there were too many intangibles that we couldn’t control. But when have had a lot of planning and a lot of meetings, trying to figure everything out and it was important that we were all on the same page.
We made a lot of extra precautions in order to have worship. It’s different, but at least we are able to come together in God’s house! So, yes, we plan, and God laughs! Not laughing to make fun of us, but laughing with us, enjoying the right, precision kind of planning we have set forth. God is laughing with us and sharing in our joy to be free to worship. Laughter, yes oh laughter, how much we need it right? And what better place to find laughter is in the church. Well to see one another, and share a good story, make people smile, make people laugh. Sometimes doing worship is not just about what we do during worship, but before; the fellowship of shared laughs. And who knows, even in worship, we can enjoy laughter, because laughter might be the closest thing we have to find God present in our lives.
I learned tonight at the presbytery meeting, thanks to Rev. Scott Andrews (McVeytown Presbyterian Church) the correlations between hilarity and holiness, and better yet, how laughter and faith can be intertwined. Laughter is power, because it shows that we can roll with the punches that life gives us. Instead of being all pouty and frustrated, laugh, shake it off, and get going. Scott, remarkably quoted theologians who stressed on the importance of laughter when is comes to the Christian faith. My favorite one was, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.” Or one by Martin Luther, “If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”
I truly think that Martin Luther is right. If heaven is without laughter, there is no joy, and possibly the absence of grace. Barth, says, that laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. First we have to understand what grace is. Grace is a gift of God that offers assistance for us to be sanctified, made sacred, to be purified, set free from sin. I would also simply say, grace is the love of God given to us. Grace is liberating, and what great way to show our liberation is through happiness and laughter.
If you want, share some quotes with us that is about laughter in the comments. Or better yet, share laughter with someone you care about.
Dang… this could have been a good sermon…
Norah loves school… Ben umm threw up in daycare… three times…
Let me break this down for you…
Norah loves school. She is making new friends, and the teacher is awesome. I even embarrassed her in front of her new friends yesterday morning when we dropped her off, it was awesome! She’s digging everything about her classes, loves picking her outfit before school, even waking up fairly easy (she is not a morning person… at… all). This is all really awesome news. She started about a week earlier than Ben would start at his daycare. Every time Norah is dropped off at school, Ben starts to cry and feel all sad. I thought he was crying because he really wants to go to school… nope… he just really wants to be with his cooler, older sister.
So now it’s Ben’s turn. We drop Norah off, and then we go to Ben’s new daycare! Yay… I thought… Ben knew something was up… something didn’t feel right, it’s different, it’s a change. So let me give you a little background of Ben’s morning routine. As I said, earlier, Norah is not at all a morning person, but because she is excited about school, she really is a lot easier to wake up. Ben, never needs a wake up. 6:00am, every day, all the time, he is up and ready to go. However, unlike Norah who is excited to pick out her clothes for school, Ben doesn’t even want to wear pants. Normally, during the week, I just give up, and Sunday.. well you gotta wear pants to church right? Sunday church, is like the only time this kid will keep his pants on. Even during the week, when I take him to the church for work, he starts off with pants, and then suddenly, he is out of his pants.
So, that background on Ben and Norah’s routine in the morning. Now comes Ben’s turn to get ready for school. Something’s different, and he knows it. Because… he is wearing pants… hmmm…. Doesn’t seem like a Sunday… And eh starts feeling upset in the car. Then we arrive at his school, and he’s just building up… he’s at about a low 2 on the crying meter… mostly just whimpers, and that quivering lip. Then we get to his new, awesome, room for daycare. He went from a low 2… to a 100 on a scale to 1-10. Screaming, crying, and throwing himself on the ground, then throwing up, three times, every time they changed his clothes, more throw up. He couldn’t even wear his shoes, because they had vomit on them. So Ben’s first day of school… had pants on (great!) and no shoes the entire day (sad). Also, he didn’t have a lunch because I didn’t know we needed to prepare lunch for him because of this dang COVID-19! That is one heck of a first day for Ben! Shoeless, puking, hungry.
I am so stressed thinking about what he will do on Thursday. I’ll probably need to pack more extra clothes, another pair of emergency shoes, and a lunch (I wonder if I can just get a subway sandwich for him).
Here’s the thing, change is difficult, Ben knows that now, and for the most part, we at times, have felt like Ben before. Suddenly, we find our lives changing, and our routine seems broken, it causes stress, and even sometimes makes us feel nauseated. But we just try to find ways to be comfortable with change. It is at first uncomfortable and stressful, but it’s going to happen time and time again. The problem is as adults, we know how we can cope with change. How can a 2 year old find a way to cope with change and find peace in a new place and a new routine?
So, I have been going to the bathroom every hour since I ate a so called “dirty” bagel. So here is how it goes…
I took a bagel from my wife so she could securely hold Ben after church. Judy Pursley told me that Ben said that Bagel was “dirty.” Now I am holding this bagel, that looks delicious. It’s after church, and I am beyond hungry. At that moment that I am chatting with Judy and Ken Goodfellow, I think that this bagel is probably not dirty. The reason I think so is because I think that Ben may have mistaken this good bagel with a different bagel that was dropped outside, which I threw away. So, thinking that my son made a mistake, and briefly inspecting the bagel, no dust, no dirt, no pebbles, looks good right? So I ate it. I figured, even if it was the dirty bagel, I’m sure it can’t be too bad, I mean I’ve done that before… I know that’s gross.
So, I ate lunch, and apparently right after lunch, my insides now feel like that want to be outside. I knew it wasn’t the subway, I knew it was the bagel. So what did I learn? My son, knows what he’s talking about. I hate to say it, but most of the time, I usually think that when it comes to decision making, my son is usually wrong or has no idea what he is talking about. But I have to realize that maybe he knows more than I give him credit for.
And the other is regardless of how hungry you are, don’t eat food that fell on the ground. I mean there are so many more healthy options out there. Even at home, I have more bagels... like.. cleaner bagels, undropped bagels. Also, that 5 seconds rule... that's a bunch of crap! You will get germs instantly in your mouth... and your stomach will hate you for it.
Yeah, nothing theological, just all about needing to do better at being healthy.
Now, I have to go to the bathroom…. Peace out everyone!
This is a picture of Ben waiting for his mac and cheese to be ready to eat. Apparently, this was the best place to wait. I told him that it would take about 12 minutes, so he can go to the living room and play while the food is being cooked. But he was content in waiting with an empty bowl for the food. I tried to tell him, that it’s not instant food, you just must wait. I can’t boil water faster!
And this is a picture of Ben waiting for the milk man to deliver milk on Weds. Mornings. Every weds. Morning, he wakes up and goes right to the window or is too eager to go outside and wait at the front porch waiting for the milk man to come. Sometimes that kid will wait hours for the guy to get there.
Sometimes, I am really impressed at how patient Ben can really be. While he waits, he doesn’t pout or cry, just waiting, staring at the object or place until it finally is finished or arrived.
I hate to admit, but I think Ben may have more patient than me at times. I am horrible at being patient. I pray to God to give me patient, but He gave me kids. Might as well work on being patient by giving me a reason to have to be patient right?
Patience is painstakingly boring and can cause me a ton of anxiety. But, most of life is about being patient. And a life of faith is 100% all about being patient. Even if we ask God to give us more faith, having a stronger faith just doesn’t happen immediately. Building of faith is about years and years of going through the ups and downs of life. And there is no instruction about having a strong faith. The bible gives us guidelines, but those guidelines are always up to us, and if you can, takes time to get used to a build, because it is all a change of behavior and lifestyle, and those do not come easy. So we wait… and be patient of ourselves, and take each day one step at a time, so that the task, the changes, the choices become easier and that each day of building will decrease your anxiety of waiting, and by the time you ever realize it…. mission complete.
As many of you all know, my wife was born in South Korea, and that is were we met, dated, and got married. As of last week, my wife made a big decision to become a United States Citizen. She passed her test and interview, and we completed all the hoops we had to jump through. She is now a United State's citizen. But you can't take the Korean out of her!
So last week and up to now, it has been about nostalgia for us. Thinking about how we met in Korea, my life before I started to get knee deep into ministry. How we lived in South Korea. So I thought I'd share some pictures for you all, about the life we started together in South Korea. Most of you all know us in the present, but may not know us from the time before we had kids. So... I'll let the pictures tell the story.
Anyone who is already a citizen of the United States, try to take the citizenship test. I would have instantly failed, I am embarrassed to say. My wife has not only been studying for her nursing degree but also the citizenship test that she will be taking on Friday at noon. She’s a dang pro man! And by helping her read those questions, I feel a new appreciation on what it means to be an American.
But her case is unlike mine. I am already a citizen, because I was born into it. She has to go through every dang hoop possible to make this happen. We had to file for legal immigration, pay a ton of money, get a sponsorship to come to the United States, then do more interviews and tests, which costed a lot of money, and then proving our marriage is legit, then waiting years for the opportunity to do a criminal check, which cost more money, and then finally the day came, the citizenship test. But all of this that is going on is also a psychological test of oneself.
In order for my wife to be a citizen of the USA, she must abandon her citizenship to her country that she left. She will no longer be a citizen of South Korea, the country that gave her birth, the country that educated her, the country that gave her character and personality. It will be gone. She will give up her South Korean passport and receive a United States passport. When she travels to South Korea to see her family, she will now have to enter the airport through the immigration line, not he citizen line.
Getting a new citizenship is exciting, but also heartbreaking when you think about it. We have shed a lot of tears, and still we are waiting on Friday. A lot of mixed feelings. Feelings that I have never faced before. Feelings that I may never have to experience. It is a sensitive issue mixed with heartbreak, abandonment, loneliness, accomplishment, acceptance, new-life, and new identity.
And the one question she will be asked on Friday is, “Why do you want to be a citizen of the United States?” I know what her answer will be. What about you? Why do you want to be a citizen of the United States? Is it because of new opportunities, wealth, job, family, service? It’s a good question to ask yourself this week.
Never take your citizenship for granted. Make it count. Also never forget where you grew up, how you grew up, and what you will do in the future.
Sometimes I feel that watching the news everyday is making me feel like we live in the worst country in the world. It sometimes seems that way when we hear about the COVID-19 pandemic, presidential elections, social distress, police defunding, Antifa, BLM, Confederate flags, and the list just goes on.
But, seriously, it’s not all that bad right? There is a reason why so many people from so many countries still choose to fight their way to immigrate to the USA, either legally or illegally. And there is a reason.
Firstly, not any country in the entire world is perfect. Every country will have it’s flaws. The United States is no different. But racial intolerance is common worldwide, it’s not just in the USA. Good luck finding work in France if you are a Muslim, good luck trying to buy property in Japan if you are a foreigner, good luck trying to buy a cell phone in Korea.
That’s right you heard me…. a phone. If you are a foreigner living in Korea, you may go the first three months or more without being legally able to buy a cellphone. Plus, your rates are going to be JACKED. You see in the United States, we may not think too much about phone and internet. It is something that all people can get, no questions asked. In Korea though, my experience was a headache. It took me about 5 months to actually have a legal phone and plan. It was even really hard for me to get a prepaid plan. And it took me about 3 months in order for me to get cable TV and internet. And I had to accept that my rates are going to be much more expensive than anyone else. In the USA, regardless of being black, or white, or Asian, or any nationality, any skin color, regardless of visa status, you can freely get a phone, internet, and cable tv. We take for granted those simple things that we have so easily in the USA, that is for all people no matter what.
The USA, is a melting pot, the most diverse country in the world. We have people living in the USA with different nationalities, difference race, multiple genders (good luck finding that in Japan or Korea), multilingual, and multi-cultured. It’s a very unique place. And for the most part all those differences, whether we agree on someone’s culture, sexual orientation, or lifestyle, do their best to get along. But it’s going to take time, you cannot expect that everyone is going to agree with your point of view, you can’t force people to think the way you think. You have to take time, listen, communicate, and work together, and tolerate. The USA is not perfect, we got to work on a lot of things out there. But it’s going to get there, eventually, by the grace of God.
However, there is one thing I’d like to see happen in the USA that I miss so dang much while living in South Korea, and I think USA companies can totally benefit from it, and balance some portions of the economy.
Delivery. I would love to see all companies, and restaurants using home delivery services. I know we have amazon… and you can do uber delivery, or grub hub, but it’s not the same, because we have to pay extra to use those services, and those services are a third person service. I want my McDonalds to be delivered to my home by a hired McDonalds delivery driver, you know like pizza. What I miss most about Korea, was being able to get anything, anywhere, anytime in Korea. Does not matter what it is… pizza, pasta, fried chicken, computer chip, fishing lures, books, clothing, whatever it is… literally, without any extra charge.
I ordered a freaking dominoes pizza from inside a baseball stadium. I ordered fried chicken, beverages, and a dessert when I was relaxing at a giant park and the dude found me. I ordered aquarium fish at 3:00am and got it that morning. The USA could work on that… that would be cool…
But seriously, the media really wants to picture the USA looking like we are better off in a zombie apocalypse. It really ain’t too bad in the USA. I’m not trying to patriotic or whatever, nor am I trying to be cynical, just trying to look at other aspects rather than the doom and gloom that we keep hearing from conservative and liberals. Sure, we don’t have all the right answers and it isn’t perfect, but at least I can always count on having a phone, internet, and tv. A luxury to get in other countries but given equally in the USA.
This little comic about Jesus feeding the 5,000 makes me laugh because I wonder what Jesus would think about us when He returns to earth. How baffled would Christ be when He finds out how fragile we have become.
To me, this comic highlights how passive, how frail, how weak we have become in our society because of our depravity to nutrition, and our connection to God.
Deprived of Nutrition
Do you know what that Bible has to say about food allergies? I’m serious, does anyone know? I can’t recall anything in the Bible that says anything about food allergies. Is it possible that food allergies were just unheard of or so rare back then? It can be… I mean the way we eat and the amount of good and bad options we have has certainly changed since the Bible was written.
We have probably consumed more process food than they did in the Bible. And I have an assumption that due to our change in diet, eating processed food, and other food items that may lack the proper nutrition may give way to more food allergies. Our physical bodies have become so weak that some of us can’t even eat peanuts anymore. Healthy options are becoming harder to get, because let’s face it… processed food is much easier to prepare than preparing a healthy home cooked meal. The demands put on families and the demands of society have changed how we eat and take care of ourselves.
Take and Eat and Do This in Remembrance of Me
That is what Jesus says we should do in the Lord’s Supper right? If Jesus came back and gave all of us the Lord’s Supper, He would have to be forced to have us all sign a waiver before participating. This comic that we saw in the beginning of the blog shows how the people just don’t see Jesus. They don’t see what a miracle is about to happen or that they just don’t care that a miracle is happening before their eyes, and they are only consumed by themselves, and their frailty.
How much of Jesus do we miss in our lives because we miss seeing Him being present in our lives? Have we forgotten that Jesus is holding us as we trudge through the demands of society and the demands of the family? Have we been consuming that easy, processed food, aka. the easy answers to life’s problems, because of how fast we are too move in this ever-changing world? Hmm… maybe there is a reason why God told the Israelites to wander for forty years before entering Canaan…
Do your best not to miss out on life and the life that God gives us day in and day out. Never ignore the little bits of grace that God provides for you to get through your day. Remember Jesus is just saying, take and eat, be fulfilled, be healed, be restored. Never forget that even though our world is demanding, and that our diet has changed, we must live. Living is about eating well, eating nutritious, and taking the time to pause and see the blessing you have in your life.
I never thought that a child’s pockets can be so dang deep. It’s like one of those little clown cars and like twenty clowns somehow pop out of it. My son can pack a ton of stuff into his pockets. I have no idea why he does it, it will just be ballooning out. Last Sunday, as we were head to get lunch, he pulled out 20 letters of the alphabet out of one pocket… I have no idea where the other 6 letters are, but I’m sure they are hidden in some other pocket.
For the last couple of weeks in church, we have been studying about he kingdom of heaven parables that Jesus tells his disciples, and other people. The kingdom of heaven is like the field of wheats and weeds, or the kingdom of heaven is about seeds fallen on the rocky road, thorn bushes, or good soil, the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, the kingdom of heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, or the kingdom of heaven is like yeast. I got one more…
The kingdom of heaven is like my son’s pockets…
Even though it is small, it can be deep, and contain a whole lot of “gifts.”
The sheer amount to what my son’s pockets can hold are otherworldly! Those pockets are so small, yet it can be an endless quarry of unimaginable gifts! How many hot wheel cars can he fit in those pockets? Like the kingdom of heaven being the size of a mustard seed will become the largest tree in the garden. And the kingdom of heaven has all those wonderful gifts for us to use and take for us to use to help other people see the light of Christ that has never grown dim!
You never know what you will find, it’s a mystery and surprise.
I have found lost debit cards in my son’s pocket, my car keys, and cash? Where the heck did he find cash? I know I don’t have any! Found crayon’s and markers, even various fruits, and food, like cookies, crackers, and chips. Whenever, I dig through those pockets I never know what I am going to find, but it will be shocking, nonetheless. The kingdom of heaven is like that. God is always finding ways to surprise us and give us unexpected joys that we never thought we’d see. Never underestimate God, and never expect something from Him. God will give you something that will give you shock and awe!
What is inside the child’s pocket is so precious to them.
Have you ever tried to take something out of your child’s pockets? Well, it’s always well protected. Don’t try to take anything out because you will feel the fury and rage of a 2-year-old because whatever is in those pockets are incredibly precious. Even though it might just be a piece of wrapping paper, or liquid hand sanitizer, or a half-eaten animal cracker… those are precious to the holder of that pocket. Just like the kingdom of heaven is absolutely precious. To other people, faith, mercy, forgiveness, compassion may seem small and insignificant, and possibly childish , but to God those things matter the most than trying to climb the social or economic ladder, or being the most popular, or being the most wealthy, or having the most cool stuff. The kingdom of heaven values different things than what the world values.
Look for little bits of similes in your world that give you insight about how important and how precious the kingdom of heaven really is. Heaven is not just something up the4re, but it’s down here among us, taking its form and presence as something so precious and a child’s pockets.
Ya’ll know that story right? I want to talk about the story of the Wizard of Oz to use it as a metaphor about how we pray to God.
When was the last time you watched the movie “The Wizard of Oz?” I think the last time I watched the movie was in college, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Apparently, all my friends were convinced that the music of Pink Floyd synchronizes with the story of the Wizard of Oz…. I dunno man… I guess under the right…. Conditions… Pink Floyd and the Wizard of Oz go together? I’m not much of a Pink Floyd fan… never cared about that style of music, just always made me feel bored… I was more entertained watching them get their mind blown, then watching the movie itself. But this blog isn’t about being a music critic! It’s about comparing the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man to how we pray and ask for things to God.
Let me make two things clear before talking about using the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for our communication of God concerning our needs and desires.
Firstly, God is always listening to your prayers. No matter what, God is always inviting you to pray and ask. Afterall, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 7:7-8, “For everyone who asks shall receive.” Never feel too shy or embarrassed when you come to God in prayer. He loves to hear your voice.
Secondly, You are made wonderful in the eyes of God, there is nothing wrong with you, because God has given you all that you need to live a full, exciting, fulfilling life. It is just that sometimes we need God to guide us and dig deep within ourselves in introspective reflection on who we are.
The Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man all are pursing going to see the Wizard of OZ because they want to ask the Wizard something they need/desire. The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Lion wants courage, and the Tin Man wants a heart. But what we find out in the movie is that as they journey on the yellow brick road, all three of those characters have the opportunity to learn that they already have all those things within them. A good example is when the Tin Man steps on a bug and cries over his mistake, showing his tenderness in the process. The Lion found ways to practice courage when it is needed. And the Scarecrow is able to solve their problems with logic and reasoning. The point is that they all have those gifts within them but just never realized it.
Maybe they were too overwhelmed by their failures that they feel that they don’t have a brain, courage, or a heart. But we know that you can only get those things with practice. So now think about what and how we pray to God and how God may respond to you.
It you prayed to God to give you courage, and if courage is only gained and realized when you put it into practice, then wouldn’t it be fitting for God to give you opportunities to practice courage? God wants us to be recognize His majesty but also for us to be self-empowered. We have always been told that God answers all our prayers, which I think is very true, but sometimes we expect God to answer a different way. Maybe we feel just like the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man and think that like a magic potion we will be given those things and suddenly our lives will change forever at an instant.
But the whole point in which God put us in earth is about us becoming, it’s about growth. For example as much as I would love both of my kids just to skip the terrible twos and skip being fussy, and just have them skip to the age that they get to college, and be independent instantly… it’s not going to happen, it will take at least 13 years for my oldest, and 16 years for my youngest to have a shot at independence. It’s the long haul, and throughout those long years they will learn, they will experience, they will grow, and find out that they are special and that it is God who has already given them the ability to move mountains, only if they are %100 believing and use everything that they are given to it’s fullest potential.
Think about what we pray to God and how we pray and let go of what your expectations are. God answers them, but he answers them in a way in which He gives us the opportunity to get to where we need to get going. If you pray for money, God isn’t just going to give you a ton of money, but God is going to set up the opportunities for you to get money. Give you a chance to write a good resume, get the proper educations for a job, apply for the job, get the job, and the job gives you money. Don’t look at God to be a magician, but look at God to be your Almighty, All-knowing Guide. If you are praying for patience, guess what, God will give you opportunities to practice patience. If you are like me and praying God for you to e a good parent…. Well I realize that God’s not going to zap me to be a better father, but that God has surely given me ample opportunities to be a better father by putting me in situations that forces me to make a good decision for my family and children. Each day I pray for this, God just throws me a certain situation in which I must be the best dad I can be. Some of the times I look like a pro, other times, I make the wrong decision. But life is long, and God is working on each and every one of us to be a better person than yesterday.
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).