I grew up Southern Baptist in Cincinnati, Ohio. I started to go to Mount Caramel Baptist Church, I was baptized there, had a lot of friends there and the pastor was a big mentor for me. When it came time to choose a college, I looked into a ton of Baptist schools, but I went to Hanover College, in Hanover, Indiana, which is a PCUSA affiliated school. I still believed that I was Baptist, and when it came to choose a seminary to get my Master’s of Divinity, I was set on going to Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY. But I didn’t feel too comfortable there, and I ended up wandering off campus during a visitation trip and found my way to the bottom of the hill where I ended up on the campus of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I really liked the feel on campus and I decided to apply to that school and ended up going there. I decided to be ordained as a…. Southern Baptist… yeah…
Anyways, I believed that I was Southern Baptist for a very long time in my life, even though my educational background was God trying to guide me to be a Presbyterian. Sometimes you don’t realize how God is guiding you because you might be too stubborn or even unaware of how the Holy Spirit is making these significant decisions for you! After some time, I went to South Korea and started working in a Presbyterian church, but I was still stubborn enough to think that I was still being a Southern Baptist. Even though now, theologically I am becoming more and more Presbyterian. Heck, I even married a Presbyterian! And her father is a retired Presbyterian pastor! Now… after I got married, we moved back to the USA where I began looking for work in Southern Baptist churches. And now my faith journey, my life narrative is about to hit a change.
I got a job working at the Korean Church of Tulsa, great church, for about 3 months… Here’s the thing… I don’t mind naming places that I’ve been and being open to what I have experienced, but I am not going to name any names. Everything was cool at that church, but then the senior pastor there (no longer there) made my life a living hell. At one point he grabbed me in the hallway and told me to leave this church. I yelled at him in his office, not knowing what was going on, and where all of this came from. The church deacons sided with me, and told me to stay and apologize to the senior pastor, I played the game, but he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
I will spare you all the messed up situations that I had to endure during this time. But simply, that pastor was a very unstable.
I decided with his blessing that leaving the church quickly and quietly would be the best choice. I instantly became lost, not knowing how a church or a pastor can act in such a way. Impossible to find any church because I could not get a recommendation from the current church I was working at. Then I received a very unlikely call. And the one church that gave me a shot was Long Island Korean Presbyterian Church of Port Washington. The general presbyter however asked me a ton of questions which made me wonder about my journey of faith.
I had to question… am I still Southern Baptist? I had to go all the way back and reflect on how God has led me up to that point. Sometimes God is doing everything He can to influence you to go in a certain direction, but because us human beings are so darn stubborn or unaware of what’s going on, we miss all the signals. I realized I have been missing signals, turns, signs since I arrived at Hanover College. And it is absolutely amazing that God never gave up on me. He decided, “Yeah this dude keeps missing where I need him to go, but I will keep giving him opportunities.” And, even when I was pushed out of a Southern Baptist church in Tulsa, God’s hands were involved in everything. And He knew that I would be in good hands, and also God decided to limit all my options at that point and basically give me a Matrix like choice of taking the red pill or blue pill.
In order to work as a pastor in Long Island I had to become a Presbyterian. I took the red pill and had to take a few ordination exams AGAIN! But thank the Lord almighty for leading me and basically thumping me on the head to say, “You are Presbyterian! Can’t you SEE!” I went to a Presbyterian college, Presbyterian seminary, worked in a Presbyterian Church, married a Presbyterian, and even have a father in law that’s a retired Presbyterian pastor. Yeah… I got it now… I see!
So, my faith journey, where did it lead me? Ward Ave. Presbyterian Church. It’s dang good to be where I am! The churchy is perfect for me. I love the fishing holes, my kids love the space to run, and my wife is going to school pursing a Nursing degree. God continues to guide all of us and give us blessings all day!
When I was younger between the age of 21 and being ordained as a Presbyterian Pastor, I used to play poker with my friends and also play in any nearby casino. I would take $100 dollars with me go to the low stakes limit Texas Holdem table, play get a little more money and then start moving my way up to higher stake tables. Get as much money and come home. If I end up losing the $100, I just go home, no harm done.
One day was like no other day. I come to a Casino I know all too well, and they were holding a No Limit Texas Holdem tournament for $100. So I decided great! (I usually do well in tournaments) I got my chips took my seat and, ready, set, GO! The cards began shuffling and were dealt out. I was in the first position, normally a good place to fold, regardless of your hand, but I had 2 Kings! That is one of the best starting hands in the game! With a full table of eight people, that's pretty good! And then I decided to go ALL IN (which means, you put all of your chips in the middle). This was a dumb move in any possibility, I have no idea what compelled me to do so... like the Holy Spirit moving in me, to teach me a lesson? I was excited though and very confident that I'd win. At the time I was hoping that there were a couple of poor suckers and inexperienced players calling me with their losing cards. I stood up, all anxious, but confident, even talking a little trash, just trying to be annoying, just to get a call. Everyone begins to instantly fold, until one guy called me! Mano-Y-Mano!!! I remember right before showing our hands, I said, "The only thing that can beat me is..." The dude showed his hands, "POCKET ACES!" He had the best starting hand in the game. The most unlikely hand to show up in the mix of pocket Kings. What are the chances that would happen?! Well chances of repeating these hands would be a very low probability. I lost, grabbed my hoodie, and went home, I lasted not more than 5 minutes in the tournament. I was in the casino for less than 20 minutes. My night was over.
The reason I am sharing this story is about when is a time we gamble with our lives in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. Well, my county has gone from red to yellow, which is awesome! But not much has changed for me. Two things I am considering highly, one, I am confident (holding pocket Aces felling) the other things I'm thinking about not so confident (holding pocket Kings).
Church and childcare. My church will open on June 7th if everything goes well. Our church is small, spacious and naturally we practice social distancing! We have masks ready, hand sanitizers, temperature readers, arranging seating, no singing, and a shorter service. I feel like I am holding pocket Aces, we can't lose, there is no doubt that if we do these measures properly, we will be safe. At the church we are safer than any grocery store you would go to right now. We have sanitized the church every week, everyone will be wearing masks, ushers will give out hand sanitizer, we have wipes at each pew, and movement is limited. You can't lose with pocket Aces when you play them right, and we are playing them right.
However, childcare situation. Going from red to yellow allows childcare centers now to be open. The risk is real here... You see at the church people will naturally sit down and stay in place for the duration of a short worship. Children will be all over the place running around, being kids. I tried to put a mask on my kids, Norah, who is five, and Benjamin, who is 2. Norah can have a mask on for about 2 minutes before she loses her mind, Ben, about 5 seconds the longest. Note: Kids are not required to wear a mask. My kids will be on the front line doing the most interacting compared to any adult. I feel like if I am sending my kids to daycare, I am like, holding pocket Kings... great hand to have... but not the best.
I have also hear that now, kids are getting seriously sick from COVID-19... I can't live with myself if my kids get sick and knowing that I could have prevented that. Also, lets just say, they get COVID-19, but are healthy, good, then they give it to me, fine, I'll be fine... but what about my church? I have to preach every Sunday, is my custodian going to be ok? My older congregation be ok?
What would you do? You want to go ALL IN with pocket Kings?
So... Being at home, not only have I been forcibly enamored by YouTube videos, since I can't do to much. Naturally I'd like to go fishing more often, but with the kids home.. well fishing needs to be limited, and also, everyone else is fishing... because they can't work... so it's hard to find places to fish from the bank. So instead of going out to fish, I've been watching people fish... and also listening to a lot of music.... a lot...
You will always find a few artists I will listen to a lot these days. I always listen to Bill Gaithers, Sam Cooke, Old Crow Medicine Show, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, and Roger Alan Wade. Those are usually staples in my playlist.
But throughout the years my playlist has become... different.. Umm.. like, a lot of different kinds of music. When I was little I never listened to Sam Cook, Roger Alan Wade, of anything country, folk, or gospel. But nowadays, that is what I prefer. But I still like the stuff that gave my love for music, such as punk, hardcore, ska, metal... but no pop music... never have... I dunno…
Maybe you guys are like me when it comes to music. Often times our taste of music changes because we grow up, we discover something new, we appreciate other stuff because our minds just kinda open up to other things.
So imagine how much you have also changed as well? Just take the time to think about how you have changed since you were a teenager to where you are right now? Maybe you got more stubborn or less stubborn more compassionate or less compassionate. How is it that you have changed? How is it that God has changed you, or how is it that God is continuing to change you. I can think of a ton of stuff that have changed in my life that have made me change the way I think, so I encourage you to take some time of reflection, because well... what else are you going to do when you are stuck at home!
As you can imagine, during this time of the stay at home order, I am spending a ton of time on the internet. I am doing work on the church website and Facebook page, not to mention doing work on virtual service filming and editing. Well because my eyes are glued on the computer and I get the chance to look up "stuff" on the internet. Well, one thing leads to another and I found myself watching a ton of videos of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) players embracing "the bat flip."
What's a bat flip? This is a bat flip...
I hope the guy on the on-deck circle is ok, because that bat is comin right at him! LOOK OUT!
Beautiful right? I am not much of an MLB fan, but I do watch it occasionally, and in the USA, bat flips are seen as disrespectful and "unsportsmanlike." Really? why? Are we really worried about hurting someone's feelings? In the United States, if you did a bat flip, you are most likely going to be intentionally hit with the baseball at your next at bat.
But I can't really seeing this as disrespectful, I merely see it as entertaining for the fans and a way of expression from the baseball player. And it's interesting to me because in the United States in which we embrace individualism and self expression the most out of any world country, but in baseball, everyone must act the same, even if you annihilate the baseball 500 feet over the right field wall. You are supposed to act like nothing happened. yet in Korea, who boosts conformity in everyday social interactions, but yet in the KBO players can bat flip away! I have even seen bat flips happen when it's not even close to a homerun, but whatever, I love it.
I don't think it's about showing off, but about having fun. I think in the USA we are so darn concerned about hurting other people's feelings so much we forgot to have a little fun. I dunno.. I don't have any theological reflection onthis, just a social insight. I hope you enjoyed, and maybe if you go out and play baseball with some friends, just know, it's ok to Bat flip away!
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).