12.29.13

when he talks

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:44 am by Administrator

sometimes, you just look at someone, and you can tell. you can see it. that he’s loved, by God.

you are halfway in. you see the things you’ve been pressed to do, the things you’ve said in your anguish. and you want to tell yourself that this isn’t you; it just isn’t you at all. you’re the man who is at peace with himself and with others. you’re the man who doesn’t mean what you’ve said. and you want to pull the man who’s halfway in all the way out. because halfway in is ugly. halfway in is terribly hard.

and you suspect, though you cannot possibly understand these things, that to go all the way isn’t merely to come out on the other side. going through with this, all the way, will be the end of you. sometimes, you say that this is okay, because you never wanted what you had, and you never wanted to be what you were. but cutting loose of what was isn’t the same as desiring what is coming. and you know it. this is why you fail, in your heart of hearts. it is what makes you angry enough to shake your fist, and sad enough to almost disappear, in that pit of heartache that swallows you whole.

there is a man, a version of you, who answered that question of all questions with all the obvious answers. and that man came into all of those things, and there ahead, but not quite near the end, he is unaware of anything missing, but for a fleeting thought, like a momentary wisp of cloud passing over the moon, that he never had the one greatest thing of all.

this version of you, you yourself, you the imminently present you—that man apparently asked for this greatest thing. and the answer galls me, as it should gall you, because you indeed do not know what you’ve asked for. and because He knows that, the one you asked this of, He comes to you, in moments like you had today, out of nowhere, asking you again, with pointed feeling if not striking indignation, if this was the thing you really wanted.

when He talks, you don’t merely hear it. you feel those words. once upon a time, those were magnificent moments. you boasted of them. now when you hear Him, you are struck with the knowledge that this could be the last time you hear His voice. He may never ask you this question, ever again.

what will it be? ah, but you know what it will be. you will tell Him that the rest of it, the thoughts, and the ideas, and the theories about all things, they just don’t matter. what you want of God is that special life. that unordinary life. that favor of God. you keep begging for it, though you are stupid, and mundane, and full of sin and betrayal. you keep begging for it, though your thoughts are filled with idolatry, self-love, and ugliness. you claim you do not fear your death, and why shouldn’t you? the end of your life would be just, if not necessary and overdue as well! but you cling to it, and entitle yourself to it, and dream a foolish dream of fulfillment. and so God entreats you to articulate this great unarticulated yen within you, and the answer you give is so filled with presumption and vanity as to define you for the crude cipher that you are.

when He talks, i feel so many things. but above all, above everything else, what i feel is the futility of myself, apart from Him. it is enough to make me despair of thought itself. i wish i wanted for nothing. but i know that i would dream a foolish dream and be exposed for it, just to have that favor of God.

when i think of your death and your resurrection, i think to myself that if i can join you in that, and truly be reborn, then whatever i end up becoming, whether it has my memory or my tendencies or absolutely nothing of me at all, it will be worth it. it is true; i loathe this that i am. but even beyond the loathing, i crave this union with you God, simply because i know that i can have nothing better, in this life or the next. i know this, because when you speak to me, i listen with everything in my being. i know this, because when you are near, i can see nothing and no one else. in my barren and destitute mind, i have no other word for this than love.

don’t pass over me, though i am fit to be discarded and forgotten. remember me, not as the one who betrayed his loved ones and rejected your people, but rather remember me as the one who clung to the very corner of your robe. i felt the bleeding stop. i thought, just for a moment, that i might live in you

12.26.13

Ode to Romo

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:56 pm by Administrator

just when we needed you most
will you desert us now, dear friend?
when the Eagles come to Dallas
to bring your season to an end?

i think of all the times
when you did us true
with a pick-6 or fumble
that gave us the W.

we’d meet you after the games
with cash for you in hand,
to celebrate the play
of our most valuable 12th man.

Romo, where art thou Romo
when we need you the most?
where is our 12th man
that we so love to roast?

have all the years
of defeating your own fans
caught up to you at last
and made you shit your pants?

you claim back pains
but what you lack is a spine.
come play for us again
we’ll pay you more this time!

Romo, great Romo
show us what you are worth,
and thus assure us Philly fans
an Eagles playoff berth!

12.12.13

ruminations about church

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:11 pm by Administrator

my church is a medium-sized church predominantly consisting of 25-40 year-old Korean Americans, more than half of whom are married and with children. it’s 14 years old and has faced about three straight years of gradually declining membership. it elected its first group of deacons about one year ago, in response to growing concerns about the disorganization of its lay leadership, and one of the main tasks the deacons have taken on is to improve the quality of the Sunday experience. chief among many concerns regarding the Sunday experience is the general perception that newcomers are not properly welcomed. in fact, many newcomers describe their experience at my church as “cold”, “unfriendly”, and “intimidating”, despite the fact that our liturgy is quite relaxed, we serve a full lunch after service, and our culture is very informal.

regarding the “welcoming ministry”, the deacons have noted difficulty in recruiting greeters and ushers to help set up the sanctuary and to welcome newcomers, prompting them to consider other ways to recruit people. they recently decided to have the small groups of the church rotate on a month-to-month basis to provide the help, which they felt would satisfy two principal concerns: 1) getting adequate help for the welcoming functions, and 2) instilling an expectation of service into the culture of the church’s small groups.

obviously, the idea didn’t come out out of a vacuum. a lot of established ministries use their small group infrastructure to accomplish the business of the church. the rationale that team-oriented service is good for team-building also seems sensible. overall, the idea certainly has its merits.

now, throughout this discussion, i’ve referred to the deacons as “they” as opposed to “we”, even though i’m one of the deacons. this is partly because i was on leave when this decision was made. but it’s largely because i haven’t bought into this idea, despite all of its obvious advantages and utilities.

principal among my concerns is the fact that our church’s experience of small groups has been largely dissatisfying. our average small group has a life span of two years before spontaneously disintegrating. i don’t think we’ve ever had more than half of our church’s congregants actively involved in a small group. and of the ten to twelve currently active small groups, most of them are brand-new, and membership widely varies between the groups. in short, we don’t have a good track record of stable small groups. the pragmatic side of me asks this simple question: why in the world would i depend on the small groups to handle a critical responsibility for the church, when the small groups themselves have generally proven to be unreliable?

the broader cultural question that the matter raises is whether obligatory service is something our congregants are willing to believe in—and whether they are willing to be engaged to this end through structured responsibilities. most of my peers think that this attitude toward service is both important and necessary, and moreover they believe that mandated responsibilities can actually facilitate this sort of a cultural shift for our church. i am skeptical. on the one hand, i do believe that a mature church demonstrates its maturity through a wide base of voluntary lay participation. on the other hand, i believe that the means to this end is not by mandate—at least not for prototypical Gen Xers like myself. we don’t take well to standardization; but on the other hand we’ll occasionally respond with creativity if we’re offered customization. Gen X churchgoers aren’t looking for rites of initiation and token membership. they’re looking for opportunities at authentic self-expression, and they like to identify these opportunities through self-directed social networking.

of course these are all blanket generalizations, but i’m positing these in order to understand the root of my personal objections. i don’t want my church to imitate churches of different orientations and styles; i want my church to embrace its own distinct character and consequently understand its potential within that context. we can’t simply expect people to get the job done out of communal piety; and my church offers many examples of young volunteers who quietly did their unselfish work until the day they burned out and decided to leave us. a Gen Xer cannot be engaged by being given responsibility; he or she must be engaged meaningfully and personally before he can make a gesture of commitment, exemplified in responsibility. ultimately, what an effective Gen X ministry will show is a step-wise process of engagement, beginning in small group networking, and culminating in individual service in his primary areas of strength and interest.

12.04.13

for love

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:47 pm by Administrator

on a day like today, i remember that i was made

not for perfection, though i quest for it
and not for goodness, however good

not for greatness, because i am pathetic
and not for beauty, because it is forgotten.

i was made for love.

not love, like what i might feel
for something i desire

but rather love, the knowing
that makes me alive

with the brilliance of every first moment
and the longing at every last time.

other men will seek you for their reasons
but i was meant for this,

the kneeling in the dark, a child’s word
to God’s listening ear

when i make the vow that is nothing
more than a simple fact:

that i will never love anything
the way that i love you.

12.03.13

the oddities of aging

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:24 pm by Administrator

sometimes it surprises me how unprepared i am for the signs of my own aging. it’s not like aging ought to be an unfamiliar experience for us. we are all getting older, and all of us will eventually die. yet, no one has really tried to teach me what it will be like to age, and perhaps it’s because they don’t feel that they can (or should). it’s certainly possible that people age in manners so unique that it’s impossible to generalize on the broader experience of growing old. but i do wonder if there aren’t strong commonalities to the experience—strong enough to be generally anticipated.

first, there’s the matter of basic needs, like food and sex. i won’t say much about the latter, except that my drive, intense as it occasionally is (and possibly as it intense as it ever was) is certainly less consistent. i think it is a biological change, as my instinct to repress is neither stronger nor weaker than it was in my more virile years. i can describe my attitude toward food in nearly analogous terms. i still get hungry, and on rare occasion i am ravenous enough to fantasize about food. but more often than not nowadays, i experience hunger (even powerful hunger) as a functional thing. and i view food with greater particularity now, as much for the terrible consequences of a heavy meal as for the joys of a tasty one. i want to avoid feeling sick after a meal, and that aversion is generally about as powerful as my wish to satisfy my cravings. i am occasionally content to eat a small and bland meal, simply to avoid the increasingly pronounced after-effects of gluttony.

my body is more acutely attuned to rhythms now. if i stay up late, it seems to throw off my circadian rhythm for days; seemingly small deviations in my lifestyle strongly impair the quality of my sleep and my ability to maintain energy throughout the day. if i don’t exercise hard for more than a few days, or if i’m mentally overactive for too long of a period, i feel it pervasively. and with regard to various kinds of exercise, i have to be discriminating; i suffer for days if i test a muscle i don’t ordinarily stress, and my whole body stiffens in response to unusual pains. all of these factors have compelled me to attend more and more to rituals of self-care: my daily morning run, my evening meditations, and my early bedtimes.

i used to love watching movies in theaters, for their ability to overwhelm my senses with darkness, sound, and visual stimulation. now i try to avoid late-night shows, because the stimulation makes it hard for me to sleep. i like my art and entertainment in discrete doses; i like to gradually build up to the experience, and i need to wind down from it. the same goes with alcohol. even five or six years ago, i could take down a bottle of wine in one sitting, more or less without consequences. but now i find myself drinking moderately and with discipline, not because i fear the hangover but rather because it interferes with life’s main pleasure—deep, restorative sleep. mental clarity used to be an occasional necessity to me, in my youth. now it is a luxury that i must secure through disciplined living.

pain is a now a regularly recurring feature of my life, and i try to avoid it all costs. when i was younger, i enjoyed the occasional reckless overexertion, the testing of my limits. i don’t enjoy those adventures any longer. prolonged travel, for example, used to be interesting to me, but now it is often inordinately taxing. i still enjoy stimulating and unfamiliar destinations; and i know few people who enjoy getting lost in strange places more than i do. but getting there and getting back is tough for me, if not prohibitively so. the logistic processes are something i have to consider with great attention with regard to any project or activity i engage in.

death too is something that has changed greatly for me. i used to fear death for its unpredictability and its finality. i still fear death nowadays; and in fact i wonder if i do not fear death more than ever before. but as i age, i fear death more for its repercussions on others. there isn’t much more i can say about that. death is less ominous to me than it once was, and yet it inspires no less fear. i am overwhelmingly afraid to die, not because it will be the end of my life, but rather because it will be painful.