I am an environmentalist. Not like, an environmentalist that goes around saying, “Save the trees man…” Not like that kind of environmentalist (I have nothing against those people). Hmm.. maybe a better word it is I am a conservationist. I do care about our world a lot. I find peace and enjoyment being outdoors, enjoying the beauty of nature. So I guess it is natural for me to love fishing, I like to practice, catch and release, especially if it is a big fish. I do that in hopes that some kid, maybe my kid might hook into it, and hopefully learn to enjoy the outdoors.
Wherever I go to fish, I love just seeing the beauty of nature. Seeing the fish jump, the colorful, birds, the bees buzzing, and the occasional deer that scampers off. I enjoy the sight of it all, and I think it is really important that we enjoy what God has created for us. All this nature is for us to enjoy and be in we of His majestic glory! I think it is our responsibility is to take care of it, so that future generations can enjoy it as well.
What I cannot stand is people who trash our parks and recreational areas. It really bothers the hell out of me. I wonder if it is really that hard to pick up your own trash before leaving?! I mean, that’s the least you can do. I mean there are a ton of trash cans nearby that you can dump your stuff at. Or if you know you will have trash with you, just carry a trash bag, it fits in your pocket perfectly well. The worst for me is seeing fishing trash just littering the shorelines. I will see empty Styrofoam cups that used to hold worms, or plastic packages of artificial baits, or fishing line that’s just thrown on the ground.
What can I do? Well first, I don’t leave my trash laying around. But what I will do is pick up as much other people’s trash as much as possible. It seems like an endless and pointless task. There will always be more trash to pick up and even the trash I pick up today, I know Ill find more next week. So why do I keep on doing it?
I do it because I imagine that if I don’t do it, the trash is just going to pile up and we can no longer enjoy nature. I do it because I imagine a lot of people doing the same thing I am doing. That they are picking up other people’s trash. Even though there may be a lot of people littering, I do believe that there are also some people who are making the extra effort to be themselves clean and clean up after others. That makes me feel good.
Every small effort in life does matter and could go a long way. Not just in taking care of nature, but in other things such as random acts of kindness. It may seem small and effortless, but it can have an impact on other’s lives and also you never know who you meet that just needs a smile, or a simple, “How are you?” You may never know how much it may mean to another person to just listen to them. Think about every positive reaction can cause a ripple effect. Like a pebble that falls into he water, that ripple just keeps going and going and going. The small gestures to you do to other people, can be infectious and may cause another person to do a random act of effortless kindness, and then the next and the next, so that not only will our world be cleaner, but happier.
I’m not a cat person… but if watching two hours of kittens on YouTube makes my kids quiet for that time… I’m all for it. I spent one day, about 2 hours just watching kittens grow from day 1 to day 68. What did I learn? Nothing! And it was awesome. For 2 hours, my brain wasn’t thinking, stressing, or pondering, it was numb… the pure definition of mindless. For 2 hours, my kids did not fight, did not fuss, did not say a word, it was total peace. The kids just mesmerized at the kittens from day 1 to 68.
Sometimes that is what you need in life. Just a moment in which there is nothing. Your mind goes blank, all those worries, all those cares just goes away for that moment. As a parent, that was the moment I needed. I am so thankful to God that for 2 hours the kids just behaved, and did not fight, no yelling, nobody getting ouchies… just…. Awesome.
Which is also another thing about kids… why in the world do kids behave so dang well in public, but are hooligans at home? I don’t know if anyone ever had that problem. Like, whenever we go to church, or at a friend’s house, or Walmart, or the grocery store, the kids are just calm, cool, patient, and polite. But when they are at home, it’s like they have entered the octagon at the most hyped up UFC fight. I might be exaggerating a bit…
But they are totally different in public. Maybe it’s because they are more shy in public than at home? But there are some days in which I wish that was flipped…. You know? Let them just run a much in Walmart and at the mall, then at home, they just sit there are draw or read or something. I dunno, it’s a catch 22 right? If they misbehave in public, then I’ll feel embarrassed and wished the other way around.
Kids are kids, they are like little punk rockers and their world is a little mosh pit. But last week, for 2 hours, just watching kittens on YouTube was awesome, and well needed. There is a time in which we just need those moments of nothingness and peace.
Always takes me back to the Bible passage in 1 Kings 19:11-13. Elijah is running for his life. He has angered a bunch of people who worshipped Baal, and He is instructed by God to stand on the mountain because God is going to “pass by.” While Elijah hid in the mountain, he heard a great and powerful wind, that broke apart rocks, then he felt an earthquake, and then he saw fire, but Elijah knew God was not in the fire, earthquake or wind. It only what followed all these marvelous and powerful events, was a gentle whisper. Elijah knew, in that subtle, gentle, quiet whisper was God “passing by.” He took notice, covered his face and stood at the entrance of the cave of the mountain. Then God spoke.
There is always so much to worry about, there is always a ton of work to be done, there is always something waiting around the corner that gives us that feeling of dread. There is just so much noise, distractions, and violence that we see happening before us. Best thing we need in our life is that moment of stillness, that moment of nothingness, even for just a moment. Because in that moment after the winds, earthquakes, and fire, comes a whisper, and it is the voice of God telling us, “What are you doing here?”
It is in that moment God is calling out to us, asking us, “Where is your mind going? Just for one moment be still and wait. Don’t fuss and worry about what is going on out there, but be on this mountain with me, just for this moment. You need this, and I am there with you. Now… let’s just watch these kittens for two hours everyone.” Thank you, God, for giving us these moments of peace for us. A time in which my little UFC fighters can find rest in you, through this kitty video. Thank you, God, for letting me not think about anything for that moment, and giving my mind some rest. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. But these workers need rest too and you give us that in which we gladly accept. Find your peace, because in your time of rest, God will speak gentle words of guidance.
Hard to tell that whether the issues of the coronavirus pandemic, and the changes that protestors are asking for are making things in the USA better or worse. I truly have no idea what that answer is.
I read that the city council in Minneapolis are considering disbanding the police department and in other major cities in the United States they considering defunding the police. Some “politician” said that 911 calls and asking for police assistance is for people of privilege, and I would argue the contrary. I have used 911 countless of times in my life, when I was a child and even a younger adult, and I was taking food stamps and needing help from government assistance programs. I was in no way close to be affluent or high society, or a place of privilege because of my race or economic status, or place where I lived. And I needed police to help me with people who were violent. Sure, I also had my share of bad policing, and I’d get upset for about a week, but then I’d regain my faith in humanity.
I guess the point I am trying to make is, I needed the police at times in my life. When my house was being shot at by nazi and kkk groups, the police was there to give us comfort and some helped picked up the broken glass and in the rebuilding process. When my parents were receiving death threats, police were there, doing there job. Of course we ran into police misconduct, such as getting a ticket for $900.00 for… ummm… well… we really have no idea… Or police mistaking someone in my family for the wrong person. Or being unlawfully detained as well. That happens, again, 90 percent of the people in the world are good and well 10 percent has issues, regardless of your skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or occupation.
Is disbanding the police department a solution? Does that mean that city will have ZERO law enforcement? I’m not too sure what is going on? Defunding the police? Does that money go… well where? I dunno, initially I found all this very terrifying… I mean I immediately thought I need to get a gun now, since the police won’t be there to protect me from people who want to kill me. Defunding the police, or disbanding the police sounds like the beginning of one of those post apocalyptic Hollywood movies. But instead of being fearful, I’d like to dig deep into this idea of how we solve the issue of police brutality and whether the protesters are demanding too much and whether our leaders are just giving people what they want rather than what they need…
So, I got a college buddy that lives in Camden, New Jersey. About 3 years ago, when I first came to Ward Ave. Presbyterian Church, I knew at the time he was living in Philadelphia. I called him, and he told me that he is now living in Camden, New Jersey. Which made me worry because I know Camden was notorious for being a crime ridden city. I asked, “What are you doing over there?!” His responses shocked me the most, “I moved here because it’s safer…” WHHHAAATTT???? He said that Camden disbanded the police 3 years before he moved there and the crime rate dropped. It’s not perfectly safe, but he said it felt safer than a bigger city.
So…. I thought I’d call him again… just too see if Camden still is doing well and also what does a “police” free city look like. To my shock, Camden has not gotten any worse. Also, too my shock… umm.. there are police in Camden. Soooo… what happened? Apparently, Camden disbanded the current police, then put different regulations and brought in a new police department… some of the police officers were able to come back to work. So…. Did everything work? Maybe…. Policing got better, communities feel safer, and more importantly, police are working actively with communities and schools. Just so you know, I have to protect is anonymity because he is a current officer in Camden, New Jersey. and also, he was a police officer in Philly and asked to be transferred to Camden, for his family’s safety. According to his testimony, violent crime is the lowest they have seen in a long time, but they did see an uptick on homicides compared to last year, but wasn’t anything like 2010, poverty is still an issue, but they want to work with community leaders and civic management companies to see if they can find a solution.
But I asked him, would defunding and disbanding the police work in bigger cities, like Minnesota or New York, any other metropolitan area. He kinda laughed at this, because one, he doesn’t know too much about the Minneapolis police department. Camden had to disband it’s police department in 2013 because of corruption issues, not necessarily because of police brutality. Also, he said it depends on how they disband the police and bring in a new type of policing. Also Camden has far less people than Minneapolis, so who know how people are going to react?
Every city is different, every situation is unique, and police departments have diverse situations they have to encounter. What is the answer for people demanding police defunding or police dismantling? Nobody really knows. As protests rage on, and more stories of police misconduct happening over media being highlighted in snippets of pictures or videos or even through twitter tweets… more and more people will want to express a high demand of action without thinking about possible consequences.
So…. CAN WE PLEASE JUST GET THE STORIES OF GOOD STUFF COMING FROM POLICE AND PROTESTORS WORKING TOGETHER TO SHOW THIS COUNTRY THEY ARE AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF BEING A COP OR PROTESTER! PLEASE GIVE US SOMETHING GOOD!!!
Before beginning, I want to make clear that I am not doing this to favor any political agenda. What is happening in the United States is about expression of pain, mixed in with acts of violence and destruction. This is not about us versus them. Any time I mention he word, justice or act justly is not that I am being one of those social justice warriors. Justice is about doing things right and acting and behaving with dignity. Justice is what law enforcements are trying to maintain and justice is what people are asking, and in the midst of the protests both sides are naturally looking for the same thing. Mixed in al of this are people who are hellbent on destruction. There will be misfits on both sides of protesters and law enforcements, that is what we have seen during these times. Power must be taken away from these miscreants. Ok, I just wanted to throw that disclaimer before I begin this.
I haven’t spoken about it, nor did I include any of it during the Pentecost service. During the moment of silence I didn’t offer any prayers for people who are protesting, or to the law enforcement, or even for stores that find themselves burned down, or even other buildings like police stations, capital building that have been burned down or looted.
I didn’t say anything because I have to be careful how I use this church pulpit. And I’m tired of the same incidents happening time and time again in the USA. Also this stuff always stresses me out and dealing with the up and down emotions I was going through during the week. Yet, last week for the virtual service, for some unknown reason, I was compelled to use the campfire scene. But I felt God wanted me to use that image. And I realize that image is all about how the Spirit of God shines even in the darkest of times. God is still here with us.
I am extremely exhausted right now. Last week and even today I have been gathering up a ton of stories for all over the country about racism, people in law enforcement, shop owners, and protester. At the same time suddenly, I must make sense of my past experiences of racial injustice, stereotyping, race related violence, and police misconduct. Those things I mentioned is a reality for all minorities. But, I don’t want to talk about my experiences, because those are mine, and those are what I must battle with day in and day out. But it is important to talk about what is going on right now in this country and where is God in all of this?
We have reached a boiling point in our country. The Coronavirus pandemic, to the massive unemployment rate, to Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Georgia from two white men, to A Black Birdwatcher in Central Park having the police called on him by a white woman, to the tipping point of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota a Black man, being choked to death by a white police officer. Now everything has exploded. That frustration level, of years of racial intolerance, police brutality on minority communities, and the chaos caused by the coronavirus, and unemployment, just broke. Suddenly, we are wondering where is God in all of this?
Where is God? Well just like Pentecost has taught us, the light of Christ is still with us, the fire that is given by the Holy Spirit is with us and is opposite of the fire’s that are caused by unlawful rioters and looters. We worship a God who detests violence and destruction. A God who stands side by side lawful police officers, and lawful protesters. A God who is against police brutality and rioters or looters.
We have been learning about John for the past few weeks. Don’t forget Jesus has told us that we will not be orphaned and that the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Advocate. Also, in John Jesus has prayer on our behalf, knowing that we are still in this world and being part of this world, we need to continue to mission of Jesus Christ to all people. And in the book of Acts, Pentecost has taught us how the light of the Holy Spirit is upon us, even during the most dreadful and darkest night. Never give up hope.
What can we do during this time? We do what we should have been doing even before all this tension occurred. Look no further than Micah 6:8. My favorite Bible verse because it is simple, direct, and it is a reminder of what God has told us to do and is telling us to do right now. “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Do those three things, especially during these times.
Act justly, everyone has the right to life. Doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, or Asian, whether you are in law enforcement or a protester. Nobody needs to go through what minorities go through day in and day out in the USA or in the world. George Floyd did not have to die in Minnesota. Act justly is about giving all people a fair chance at living and pursuing the American dream, and nobody should do anything that infringes on the right to live and the right to live well. Justice is not about advocating violence and destruction, justice is not death, justice is not about getting mine and forget about the other, it is not about us versus them.
Love mercy, is about having compassion towards one another. Protesters and police officers is not about us versus them, because in the end of the day everyone is human, they all have a family to go to at the end of the day. Listen to people’s story, respect their right to live. Give what you can and be generous. No need to hoard all the toilet papers and meats for one’s own gain. Nor need to harm other people and restrict other people to protect yourself.
Walk humbly with God is about doing justice and loving mercy. It is not about looting, destroying, or killing people in handcuffs. It is not about destruction. Walking with God is helping God, about continuing the mission of Jesus Christ to all people. Imagine what our world will be if we just did these things. We have to help God in these circumstances. God is holding the world in His hands, but the world is crumbling, our social responsibilities are being broken, and the foundations of this world are turning into sand. God is holding the world in His hands, but its really hard to hold a world that is crumbling and turning into sand, slipping through God’s hands. We can help God. By acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly, we put our hands in between God’s fingers and catch the crumbling world. It is our Christian responsibility to do such acts of mercy, be act justly, and be humble. Be safe out there, respect all people regardless of occupation or skin color. It’s time to rebuild the foundations of social responsibility that are crumbling before our own eyes.
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).