Safe and Secure
How safe and secure do we feel? I hate to talk about what happened in Nashville this week, but I also do not want to ignore it. I do not want to write about gun violence, children safety, or mental health, because this is getting all too repetitive, but I must talk about this… yet again… and honestly, I do not see an end to this type of mindless menace of violence. For gun rights activists they will put the brunt of blame on the issue of mental health and anti-gun activists will put the sole blame on firearms in the USA.
I am not going to pander on either side of the argument, because to be honest, I agree with both sides to a certain point. Here is where I stand. I do believe in the right that a person should have to protect themselves by any means necessary. I am an Asian American living as a minority in the United States. I have two children, and a wife who just got her USA citizenship. You better believe I am concerned about their safety, not just in their school or workplace, but in their everyday life.
As a minority, I have been attacked, verbally abused and threatened (in front of my children), death threats left on my door, carcasses of dead animals on my front door, letters and pictures of my family going to Walmart, work, or school, saying “better watch your back.” This isn’t stuff that has happened to me that is new, I have had this my entire life, but it is new to my wife and my children. And you better believe that I will protect them by any means necessary.
When COVID was going around and the talk of deactivating police became top priority in our society, the random acts of aggression and violence escalated towards my family and me. I wondered when the next attack will happen on my family or myself, and hope that I will be prepared, just like other times. That is prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally (I put the priority on mentally and emotionally). I understand gun activists when it comes to protecting yourself and your family by any means necessary.
But at the same time, I get the voices of antigun activists as well. This type of gun violence is getting out of control. In Nashville, 3 kids at the age of 9 years old was shot and killed. 3 adults shot and killed. The police acted quickly to the attack, but still 6 people dead and 1 gunner is dead. One of those kids was the child of a pastor, so that hits me hard as well.
I don’t care who we blame, is it guns, mental health, something else, lack of mental strength, lack of God in society, liberals, conservatives…. Blame whoever and whatever. The fact is we will see this violence happen again and again and again. It is no longer shocking but always disturbing. So what can we do?
We do out and do what we normally do the next day. Make a choice not to ever live in fear. Do not fear when the next attack will happen, do not fear other people, and do not give in to responding emotionally to the mindless menace of violence.
Living as a minority in the United States of America, being a father of 2 young children, and a husband to a newly immigrated Korean wife, acts of violence will always be the norm for us. I know it sounds depressing, and it is, but I am not going to hang my head low and feel down about it. I choose to live, every day. I choose to fight off the emotional and mental demons that want me to be angry with people. I choose to live, and be proud for who I am. There is nobody or no incident that will change that.
I learned that I should never live in fear. Never fear the other, and never fear when the next attack will happen. I understand that it will happen, and I understand that my children will run into people who only want to degrade, abuse, and hurt them because of what they look like. That is reality.
This insane attack at a Nashville school that took 3 children, 3 adults' innocent lives is horrifying. And I hate to say it, but there is no solution in sight. No changes will be made, no lobbyist will change their opinion, and this is a reality in the society of the United States in America.
Just remember to hold your loved ones closer, choose to live well and responsibly, do not get worked up if someone embarrasses you and harasses you, and remember that that only person that can control you is you. You matter to you. Everyone, good luck this week, try to stay positive, humble, and responsible. Always choose forgiveness or blame, grace over judgement, peace over violence, love over hate. I know… some days are easier than other days. But you have a choice to think.
You Never Know
My wife and I have had a rough couple of weeks. Both of our work at the church, for me, and the hospital, for Eunkyung, has been very demanding. Nothing bad happened, but mostly, what we have been exposed to is the fact that we never know what people may be going through.
I think we often put up a positive face in front of people but inside we could be hurting, depressed, or just fighting “demons.” The past couple of weeks Eunkyung and have reached out to people that by appearance look nice and happy, and proper, but then realizing that they are really going through some tough stuff.
Now just to give a heads up, Eunkyung meets a ton of people at her workplace, and in my workplace, it not just includes my local church, but also the greater Presbyterian church as well. I meet a lot of people during my week, not just locally, but also committees from the Presbytery and also Synod level as well.
But the past couple of weeks made me realize that just because someone’s outside appearance looks ready, proper, and it looks like they have their entire life in perfect order; may not be the case. In the inside they could be going through a lot that the outside can’t tell.
Now, I think this is important, that we don’t need to probe people in how they are truly doing, but I think it is important to always stay connected. Always be natural, and always be caring to one another. I do not think it is important that we need to force the other to tell us what is ailing them. But it is important to be present with them.
Never present yourself to be judgmental, sarcastic, or uncaring to other people. Be the person that others want to be around because of trustworthiness. We never know what other people go through, hence the importance of having the right attitude and character with others.
And if you are the person that is going through pain and hurt. Just remember you have the right to feel what you want to feel. And you also have the right to present yourself to the world any which way you want. Nobody can tell you how you are supposed to feel, and nobody can tell you how you must act in front of other people. But also know that there are people in the world that you can talk to and trust. I encourage you to find that person and be with that person.
Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. And continue to be strong and proud of who you are. Always remember that God loves you very much, not matter what you are going through and what you are doing. God loves you.
What We Don't Notice
Norah: “Hey Ben, how was school?”
Norah: “Did you learn anything?”
Ben: …… “No.”
This was the conversation my kids had when I picked up Norah from school today. Now for reference, Ben is in preschool, so… not too sure he knows what he is actually learning. But it is funny and also alarming, that my son thinks he isn’t learning anything. Awesome… exactly what a parent wants to hear.
But I do know he is learning something. I can see how much he has developed each day and every week. I can see how he gets interested in many unique topics, and also how creative he can be. I can also see how much of a thinker he is.
He may not realize how much information he is gathering when he is in school. And to be honest, I think as Christians never realize how much we are learning about God and God’s plan for us.
Now, to be clear, I never think anything happens by luck or chance. I do believe in a plan that God has for each and every one of us. And I know it may be hard to believe, especially when bad things happen in our life and in the world. But also, do not forget, there is always a power struggle between the good and evil. And we are the ones that are standing in the middle of it all. And when something bad does happen, we should never think that God is powerless to stop such atrocious acts or that God is not loving enough to care what happens.
We must remember the words of Jesus Christ given to His disciples (and to us), that the powers of heaven are given to us.
Basically, it is now our responsibility to make things right, peacefully, just, and good. In a way we should think that God has enough faith in us to make the right decisions. That is that God trusts us so much, that He was willing to save us from eternal doom. Yes, we were worth saving.
That being said…. God has a plan, and that plan involves you! You may not realize it or feel that it is true. Possibly unaware of God’s plan like my son’s lack of awareness to his growing education. Now again, you may not realize that everything that is going on around you is also God trying to steer you into His plan. It is still our responsibility to be aware, listen, and go out and execute that plan. The danger is that we can spend most of our life unconscious to the signs that God gives us, like ignore the GPS when we are trying to drive to a new location. If we continue to ignore the GPS and try to find this new location on our own, we will probably not find it, unless we get some serious help.
This is what God is doing in our world and in our life. God si the GPS system trying to guide each and every individual. Sometimes, we will miss turns, or miss the signals, but like all good GPS, it will recalculate. We just need to be aware enough to be aware that there is a guiding GPS system.
To Live Forever
So right now I am working hard at preparing for the Bible Study we do for every season of Lent. It is going to be in a couple of weeks on March 19th, after worship at 11:00am. The subject that we are going to explore is the Christian belief of Eternal Life. What does that mean for Christians living right now and also about what that means at the end of life. And more importantly, how do we receive Eternal Life.
And I want to dig deep into this subject, and I am going to use some of this writing for March 19th, but I want to share it with you all right now!
Eternal life is something that is appealing to most human beings because we have some reservation in facing our “possible” inevitable death. SO, an answer to our fears of death is “eternal life.” But what exactly does that mean? To live forever seems like an outlandish concept. But people have tried.
When I was younger, I learned about the story of Ponce de Leon of Spain who was in search of the Fountain of Youth when he was exploring the area in which we know is called Florida. According to legend, Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth most of his life and he believed that it must be hidden somewhere in Florida. Hmm…. Maybe that is why subconsciously many of us, as we get older, look at Florida to be our retirement home.
When I first heard of this story, when I was very young, I thought that it was stupid! I thought that it was so foolish for a guy to waste his entire life just to search for something that couldn’t be found, or possibly never exist.
In my young life I knew that life is futile. I have already understood the concept of death at a young age when I witnessed family members passing away. But in my early life I also learned not to be scared of death or even try to find ways of avoiding it. Because maybe it is through the help of the church, or parents, or other influences in my young life, that instead of trying to find way to avoid death, we should be spending our precious life on earth, living it.
It was sad to me to think that Ponce de Leon just ruined his life to try to find something because of his fear of death. What he should have been doing is living life to its full potential.
I think this is important for Christians to realize as well. Eternal life isn’t given to us because we fear death or are afraid of hell or need to find ways to cope with death. Eternal life is given to Christians because it is a gift from God. That is as simple as it gets. There is no ulterior motive, or nothing about Eternal life that helps us avoid death or the fear of it. Eternal life is a gift. It is the possibility to even think of eternal life as another stage in living. Our bodies go through amazing changes from life in the womb, to birth, to growth, to puberty, to eventual adulthood, to aging and menopause, and then what? Well imagine eternal life is the stage of life, like a caterpillar going in a cocoon in order to emerge from the cocoon into a new being, a butterfly.
Don’t spend your life worrying about death or spend your life to try to find way to avoid death. I do not think God intends us to live in such a way. He created our human bodies in a way that it goes through stages of being. Every stage we go through not only takes on new physical shape, but also emotional, psychological, and even spiritual change. It is just how God created us. And just because what we see as death or dying might in in God’s eyes, the sequence needed to enter into a new stage of being.
Now, I will have a lot more to say about this and what the Bible has to say about this and other things about the subject of Eternal life on March 19th after worship for the Lenten Bible Study on 11:00am. So don’t forget to come to worship at 10:00am and stick around afterwards. There is still a lot to learn and discover!
Are you ready for Easter? Well, Easter is coming but first we begin our season of Lent. And what exactly is Lent and what does it mean?
Lent is when Christians around the world commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and getting tempted by Satan. Many Christians will participate in these forty days by either fasting or giving up something for the time period.
So, what is the purpose of Lent?
Well the purpose is prayer, fasting (or abstaining from something) and charity. Those are three things that we need to focus on for Lent. That is the reason why in our church we are preparing the One Great Hour of Sharing by participating in a fun Lent calendar that we give a little each day, so that we can practice charity during this time. Now every individual will have to think about what they want to give up during Lent. But what is the point of abstaining from something or fasting?
The whole idea, in my opinion, is our acknowledgement on our dependence on God. You see when you give up something or fast you create this void in yourself. You once tie filled it with something, whether it be food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or even television, sweets, internet, or your cell phone. But during Lent, we give up that thing and now what is left is just an empty space.
It’s funny because for Lent I decided to give up two things. First one is sweets, and the next thing is meaningless cell phone browsing. So basically, I just want to use my cell phone to answer and make phone calls and texts, and that is all, I’m not even doing emails on it. No watching videos, playing games, browsing through pictures, YouTube, and Google.
So, hence, now I have this void. And I find myself ever so vulnerable. Especially, when I am just wanting to relax or feel bored. I normally would go straight to my phone, but now I have nothing, it’s just the quiet stillness of empty space.
Now, I realize that the point of Lent is for God to occupy that empty space that is in me. But how does this happen? Do I just sit here and wait for God to come into my void, my emptiness, this once occupied “cell phone” space? What am I supposed to do because I am starting to feel anxious!
And this is when it is importance for us to prepare that space for God! It’s kind of like having my 6-month-old, 60lb yellow lab. She’s a puppy, a big puppy, but still a puppy. We have trained her to be easy in the house and given her the space to explore safely. Now, she has “her” space. This is the space that she knows that she enters when we go upstairs to sleep, or when we leave the house for work. It’s not a crate. But it is basically the living room space.
But this living room space needed to be suitable for her. I just cannot force her or order her to stay there while we go somewhere else. I need to prepare that space for her, so that she can feel comfortable and happy. So, I bought a big doggy bed, so she doesn’t have to climb up on the furniture. I gave her three cozy blankets that she can play and cuddle with, while we are away. I gave her a ton of toys that she can play with. Basically, this is her space. And because I prepared a good space for her, she is comfortable entering this space, willingly and naturally.
I think we must do the same for God during our practice of Lent. Even though we give up something, we cannot just expect God to just come in and occupy this void. It is our responsibility to occupy that void with things that God can enter in order to show God that we are ready for Him. So that void, empty space that is left in us because we gave it up for Lent, must be filled with things that invites God into our life.
It means that we have to prepare our minds and hearts to the things that God would want. Lent is all about prayer, so maybe first we work on prayer. I m a pastor, so it is easy for me to begin my day and end my day with a lengthy time of prayer. And I understand that for most people this is not [possible. But if you can spend just five minutes a day for prayer that would be a start. Maybe it’s also about getting into the word of God, the Bible. I know you will ask me, but where do I start? And I tell you to start in three books at the same time. Begin with the Book of Matthew, Romans, and Exodus (but start at chapter 2). You don’t have to put a timeline to finish all three, but I do recommend reading all three simultaneously, and just a little by little. Maybe read one chapter from each book. That is a healthy start,. And maybe the other thing we can do to prepare God to come into our empty space to give more the next 40 days. Be charitable because it shows our willingness to try to be more Christlike.
So that is it! We gave something up, like in my case, “my phone,” and we have this void of space. So now to prepare God to enter this space, we will make it inviting to God by praying more, reading scripture, and being more charitable. I think by doing these three things, we are letting God know that we are ready for Him to be in our lives.
I hope everyone has a great eye-opening experience during Lent. I hope that we can prepare God the room in our life. And just so you know….
If you can’t make room for God, in the three ways I suggested, don’t feel too down. God is never going to love you less. Always remember God loves you so much and that God is waiting for you and cannot wait to be with you. Remember that God loves you so much that He was willing to die on the cross for you (through Jesus), regardless if you believe in Him or not, that is what He did. He loves you unconditionally, always and forever.
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).