February 10, 2011

  • Three thoughts in response to a reading

    A xanga post, by request of a friend

    I had originally written this on one of my other blogs.  I had created that one as a placeholder to drop my thoughts and come back to edit them into something post-worthy.  Then, life rushed upon me again and birthed me a girlfriend.  My writings days were temporarily over.  (No complaints, mind you).  This is something I had written a year ago and somewhat enjoyed.  I post it now with little expectation.

    *edit* I just read through this again and realized I recycled a quote. in back to back entries. LAME!! This will not do. I may have to forgo posting this one until I get other entries sandwiched in between.



    “As in the book of Daniel when the three young men who were put in the furnace did not smell like fire upon being delivered from it, so the Christians who have been in Communist prisons don’t smell like bitterness against the communists.

    A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by Communists, rewarded their jailors by love. We brought many of our jailors to Christ. And we are dominated by one desire: to give Communists who have made us suffer the best we have, the salvation that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    –Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs
    from Tortured for Christ


    I take three things away from this passage. The first is for me right now. The second is for me and for others; an analogy to be shared. The third I have known all along, and yet fail to practice with consistency and integrity.

    1) Do not become what you are immersed in. I can not be tainted or covered by something I am even intensely affected by. I must wear the coat of Christ love to repel such things, so that they do not become stuck to me. I must fan into flame the fire of Christ inside, that I may stay the same. Do not become corrupted. Be set apart. be holy.

    2) When we are crushed, what does it reveal inside of us? Is it anger? is it bitterness? Is it love? Is it grace? With what do we color the foot that stomps on us? Am I the flower that perfumes the foot that stomps me? Or am I the bitter root that leaves the stink of anger and resentment?

    3) Do I respond in love to the people who hurt me? Even worse, the people who intentionally hurt me? We excuse ourselves when we offend someone by saying “it was not my intent,” but this is wrong on two levels.

    Firstly, intentional or not, we must own our wrongs and the offenses we give. We must make reconciliation and if applicable, recompense. A man who runs over his neighbor’s dog does not excuse himself by telling the boy it was unintentional. Is that much better than if it were? What consolation does this offer the boy who has lost a cherished pet and friend? The man must acknowledge the wrong he had committed and the grief he has caused.

    Secondly, the person affected by a wrong must not be hung up on whether something is forgivable based on intent. Ultimately, we are called to forgive. To hold on to anger and unforgiveness hurts everyone: Christ, the offender, and the offended. I once heard that unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the offender to die. Unforgiveness may affect the offender, but it will never harm him as much as the one who withholds forgiveness.

    All of this is an aside. All offenders, intentional or not, are our enemies at the moment the offense is given. How we respond to our momentary enemy reveals our heart. Do we love this enemy? Do we see him as Christ sees him? Do we see in him the imago dei (image of God)? Do we see Christ in him, whom Christ himself suggested we should provide a drink of water? Or do we see him as an enemy. An offender. An invader of our boundaries and a destroyer of our peace? Is he an adversary whom we must steel ourselves against? Do we raise up the walls of defense? Or worse yet, are the words of the counter-assault already on our lips before we know what we are saying?

    How do we react to our enemy-in-the-moment? Do we love him or hate him? Do we give him the best we have?


September 1, 2010

  • A different perspective on forgiveness

    Whenever we talk about forgiveness, we usually talk about how it’s important that we give it.  How it’s necessary for us to move on with our lives and to release our hearts from the pain of the past.  I still remember a post from my friend Patty who said that “Unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s so true.  Holding on to anger, hatred or bitterness can only hurt ourselves.  The other person, if his conscience will allow him, goes on scott-free.

    We also talk about how it is necessary for reconciliation and for making peace. Sometimes forgiveness is given for the sake of the family.  For the sake of friends.  For the sake of children.  But we never really feel compelled to give it.  It’s just… necessary.

    The thing with forgiveness is that in many cases, it isn’t really deserved.  In order for us to forgive, we have to overlook our desire for justice and give reprieve to someone who hasn’t earned it.  Who may not actually deserve it.  But we are told to forgive anyways.  If we are Christians, we are called to forgive, to emulate our Lord.

    Many Christians aren’t very good at this.

    I’ve talked recently about the importance of remembering who we are. Of remembering that we have all screwed up, and are screwing up still.  We can’t help it.  We’re not perfect.  We hurt people whether we intend it, realize it, or work to avoid it.  It doesn’t matter.  The only way to avoid pain and causing pain is to become reclusive.  But even that is not fully true; there is a cost to those you have left behind. I simply can’t think of a way in which we can avoid causing harm and making mistakes.

    So if we are to remember who we are, we must then remember that we have been forgiven much.  If we have been forgiven much, we then should love much.

    I think of all the wrongs I have committed in my life. I remember all the hurts I have caused.  And I pause to shudder at all the hurts I have caused without ever being aware of it.  Over the years, I have undeservingly benefitted from the innumerable gifts of grace and forgiveness that have covered over a lifetime of my mistakes.  It is my heart’s desire to continue this great tradition by showing similar kindness, forgiveness and patience in all circumstances, at all times, to all peoples.

    I know that there are some pretty awful people you’ve come across in your life.  And there were also some less awful, but severely annoying/frustrating/degrading people you’ve had the misfortune of having to spend some time with you.  It’s hard, I know.  It’s easier to hold on to the anger because you don’t think that they deserve your forgiveness.  But I leave you with this: “Such were some of you,” goes the saying.  And continues with, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Forgiveness is not about giving someone something they have earned.  Forgiveness is about acknowledging the person deserves justice, or anger, or a strong talking to, but you let them off the hook anyways.  You let it slide.

    And in doing so, you let yourself off the hook too.

    Remember the kindness that was shown to you.  It may have been few and far between.  But it may have also been one of the best gifts you ever received in your life.  And I suspect, it may be one of the best gifts you can ever give too.

August 28, 2010

  • Another passing thought

    Yes. It is true.  The church should be serving you more, taking care of you more, being more accepting of you and loving you better.  She should be teaching you, encouraging you, and boosting you up.  The church body as a whole should be reaching out to the community more and helping those in need.  It is all true.


    You know what else is true?

    You’re a part of the church too.


    Be what you want the church to be.  Go get ‘em.

August 20, 2010

  • Furthermore

    When my brain gets this liquified, I turn to bulleted lists to keep my thoughts straight.  I also cheat and borrow from things I said from an earlier time, when I could still string words together meaningfully.  Here is a comment I received on the last post from SonnetJoy:


    I think most Christians completely forget that we really *are not* somehow inherently more worthy than others, and I know I hear from many nonChristians about how Christians lord their Christianity over them, and it completely turns them off from seeking a Savior.


    Response: Very true.  Not only are we not inherently more worthy than others, we also aren’t sinless saints once we follow Jesus.  We are not without desires, temptations, and falls.  When we proclaim to be sinless (or just plain better than others), we don’t just crush the hearts of other believers who know their own struggles, we turn off seekers who know us, and see past our deception.


    When we forget who we are, and forget that we need a savior, we hurt 3 groups of people.

    1)  We hurt other Christians who are struggling with the same thing.  By presenting an image of perfection and “holier than thou,” those who struggle become even more burdened with shame than they already have.  The become plagued with questions of “what am I doing wrong? Why won’t God help me with this? Does God love me like he loves [so and so]?”  I think of Casting Crowns’ Stained Glass Masquerade when I think of this situation; The opening line says it all: Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feeling so small? 

    It’s one of the self-perpetuating problems of the church today.  In the olden days, it was called Phariseeism.  In modern times, we call it being delivered from sin and temptation and never falling into sin ever again.




    2)  We hurt people who are not Christians but want to know about Jesus.  When we pretend to be without sin, it destroys our testimony.  We deliver a false gospel of attaining perfection on earth.  What’s worse, people see us.  They see right past the deception.  They know we are just like them, weak and broken, but we pretend to be otherwise.  No wonder people call us delusional and misguided.  It’s because we cannot see the plank in our own eyes.  And yet, we go around trying to tell other people how to be moral and to follow Christ.  Our hypocrisy is at the worst when we go around trying to “save” people.  We are not the saviors.  Nor have we ever been.  Nor will we ever be.  We are the ones who have been saved, and will continue to be saved until the day we are called home.


    3)  We hurt ourselves.  When we forget that we need a Saviour, we cease to call upon Him.  We go about doing our own thing, living our lives, and are perpetually frustrated at a God who isn’t giving us what we want.  Instead of looking to a Lord to worship and love, we are looking to a Cosmic Santa to bless us every moment of our lives.  And then when hardship comes, we become angry and bitter.  We question why God is so harsh.  We doubt His goodness.  And we wonder if He is still there.  Or worse yet, we believe He is there, but suspect He is toying with us.

    When we forget our position before Christ, we also forget who God is.  We forget who we once were, and in doing so, we unwittingly go back to being where we need to be – crying out to a Saviour to rescue us.  It is a vicious cycle the need not be repeated.   Maintain your position before Christ. Remain attached to the vine.  And escape the cycle of disappointment.  Pain will still come, but it is better endured while rooted by the stream instead of dried out in the desert.


    Whatity what what?  I’m going to bed.  Goodnight!

August 19, 2010

  • Short, but not insignificant

    Last week, I posted on some ideas I’ve been developing for some time.  It started with the idea that we are all helpless and in need of a Saviour.  If that is accepted to be true, then we must also conclude that no one person is better than anyone else.  I am not better than you just because I am a Christian.  We have all done wrong, and no amount of right we ever do will make up for it.

    This past Sunday, I had the privilege of visiting with New Life Fellowship again.  It’s a wonderful church and I love going there.  I grow a little (and sometimes a lot) each time I visit.  This time, the sermon was the 4th in the series on Jonah.  Coincidentally, it dealt with some very similar themes of which I had been blogging about.  The speaker spoke about grace amnesia, and the importance of receiving and giving grace.  One of the principal quotes of the sermon was this:


    “If we are to be grace extenders, we have to be grace receivers.  If we are to be grace receivers, we have to realize that we are no better than anyone else.”


    The entirety of the sermon can be found here. Please, please, please take some time to sit down and listen to it.  It’s worth it.  Facebook will live without you for an hour.  If you can embrace what he’s saying, this will change your life.

    More to come tomorrow.

August 17, 2010

  • An introduction into awkward humor

    I love awkward humor.  I think it is the new sarcasm.  And I am partially hoping that it will overtake sarcasm as the new medium, but partially I’m hoping that it won’t.  I like that it’s still rare enough that people can still be uncertain and confused by it.  When the awkward becomes commonplace, it’s no longer funny anymore.

    My friend made a good point in that it is partially in part to “The Office” and “30 Rock” that awkward humor has increased so much in the past few years.  I think characters like Michael or Dwight from the Office are great examples of awkward humor.  They do and say strange things without knowing they are being strange.  They are genuine and sincere in what they say and do.  That’s just who they are.  Liz Lemon is unabashedly a foodie.  She has a sense of dignity, but is not ashamed of many of her quirky traits.  It’s awkward, but it’s great.  And we love her for it.

    I started to think about awkward humor today at work and tried to put it down into words.  How does it work?  How does someone enter into the realm of awkward humor.  With just 10 minutes to write, I jotted down the following notes:

    1) Make the abnormal, normal.  Think of the character of Dwight, who knows more than the common person about beets, bears, and martial arts.  He discusses these random things as if they are things any person would bring up in common conversation and want to know.  It works because it’s unexpected.  When we are first introduced to his character, we have no idea he knows about all of these things.  The surprise is part of the fun.  Do or say something out of character.

    2) Remember that you are all at once the straight man and the wacko. Say things that are absurd but never let on that what’s being said is absurd. Do it for real. Be sincere. Be proud.  If you laugh about what you just said, it ruins the joke.  You have to not know that it’s strange.  You have to maintain a sense of innocense.

    3) Take them on a journey of the strange. There is limited humor in shock value. Shock value can only take you so far.  Instead, artfully take your audience on a journey of discovery and revelation. Anyone can bring out a picture of his mom doing something indescribable with farm animals. But that’s not artful, nor is it really revolutionary. It inevitably devolves into a series of one-upsmanship until the audience just doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore. No. True awkward humor requires starting small with something believable, but not quite socially acceptable, and then bringing the audience along to believe something that isn’t acceptable at all, but still remains believable based on the building blocks that were laid before. This requires good pacing, improvisation, as well as the ability to read the audience. Ad libbing is key to fill in the gaps when there is disbelief.


    A couple of years ago, I made an announcement on facebook that I was going to do something different for Lent.  I was going to give up stuff that I hadn’t considered giving up before.  This was based on the established understanding that I partake of Lent annually.  I started with giving up meat.  Then the next day, I announced I was taking a vow of silence and giving up speech.  After that, I declared I was giving up gainful employment and a 9-5 job.  Lastly, I declared that I was going to give up sobriety for Lent.  40 days of dedicated drunkenness; it’s a hard job, but I’m going to for Jesus.  Now, this is less awkward than it is absurd, but it was awkward to the people who didn’t know me very well, and funny to the people who did (I can’t sniff a bottle of beer without passing out).  It was a good joke, but not universally appreciated.  Probably a better example is this:


    I was in a facility where there was a secure room inside a larger secure room.  I was speaking with the project manager and discussing how the people in the inner room felt cut off from the people from the outside, larger room.  Here is how it went.


    Project Manager: You know, before the built this room, they were going to just put up some bars instead of solid walls.  It would have been like working in a jail cell! How awful is that?

    BokGwai: Well, they could have installed some stripper poles too and hired some dancers to liven it up a little bit. You know, make it a little more festive.

    Project Manager: Have you seen the population of the people working here? It’s 97% women.

    BokGwai: You could have some male strippers too.  Something for the ladies.

    Project Manager: Eww… that’s creepy.

    BokGwai: Yeah… I know what you mean.  Every time I see a male stripper, I always think to myself [pauses and takes a deep sigh] Why did I come here?

    Project Manager: [Really awkward silence]


    Now, this works on a number of levels.  I didn’t go too far when I made the first comment about stripper poles that it ended the conversation.  There are a lot of strip clubs in Denver (where this facility was), so talking about strip clubs wasn’t too unusual, despite it being a work environment.  The project manager played along and continued the conversation.  The male stripper comment took things a little further and pushed it over the edge.  The response then was less positive.  So I quickly reeled it back in.  I agreed with the PM that male strippers were creepy, but then took it another step further to suggest that I know this from experience.  Multiple experiences.  So much so that by the end, the PM thought I was serious, and I needed to let the PM know that it was just a joke.

    That is how a good awkward humor journey begins and ends.  Start with something strange, but not out of the question, and build on it.  Keep it genuine and sincere.  Do not go out of character.  Just say things or suggest things that not expected of your character.  Gender confusion is one of my favorite topics to play with.  If you can pull that off, you’ve done well.

    Hopefully, I’ll be back to a more serious post tomorrow.  I am very interested in continuing the “I am not better than you” series.  And I now have more material to bring.


  • A poem (a cheap filler post because it’s way late and I’m way tired)

    A few years ago, I attended a conference put on by the CCEF on the topic of Fear.  It was a brilliant and wonderful conference, and I came away learning a lot about myself and the topic.  But that is another story for another time.

    During the conference, I attended one lecture entitled Looking for God at Ground Zero (I paraphrased, because I can’t remember the exact title) by Carolyn Custis James.  She talked about what life is like after our disaster strikes and our worst fears are realized.  How do we respond?  Where is God in all of this?  She based her talk, in part, on her book The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules.  In this book, she takes a look at Naomi from the perspective of a female Job.  She is a woman who has lost everything in life; Her husband is dead, her sons are dead, and she is too old to bear anymore children.  She is a woman who does not own any land while living in a foreign land.  She is considered to be a parasite to society.  She has nothing.  It was an eye opening talk for me to listen to.  In part, because I learned a lot about looking for God in the midst of disaster, pain and suffering.  In part, because I learned a lot about seeing things from the perspective of a woman in Israel during Biblical times.

    A few months ago, I led a discussion on the same topic in my small group.  In preparation, I asked my members to think long and hard about what life would be like to live as a widow in ancient Israel.  For fun, I asked them to write a poem about it and present it to the group.  Here is mine, a haiku.


    What am I to do?

    Being a woman is hard.

    Life sucks; then you die.


    Tongue in cheek, of course.

    Go read the book.  I’m sure you’ll glean more from that than this cheap filler post today. ;)   I hope to put up a real post tomorrow or the day after.  Life has been busy after all.  And will be busier in the days to come.  The quality of this blog may drop significantly.

August 14, 2010

  • A passing thought, a conviction to remember

    “When we demonize a race, a religion, a sexual orientation or even a political affiliation, we have already lost sight of the gospel. Jesus came for everyone, not just you and me. It’s true, we have a common enemy, but – and I’ll give you a hint – he’s not your neighbor.”

August 13, 2010

  • Enjoy every emotion

    Today’s entry will be short.

    I am nervous.  I am excited.  I am filled with all sorts of emotions. 

    I have the queasy butterfly feelings in my stomach.  I’ve been jittery all day.  I have  repeatedly asked my male coworkers if what I am wearing is ok. (Which is weird, because I don’t trust their fashion sense anyways, so if they say yes, should I really feel reassured?)

    I remember once telling a buddy of mine that he should enjoy these emotions.  (He considered himself an artist.)  And I told him that this is the stuff that the best art was made from.  The tension.  The terror.  The terrificness of it all.  It’s easy to enjoy happiness and peace.  But to soak in the not knowing, the wonder, the heart palpitations.  This.  This is beautiful. 

    I am learning to take the appreciation of life and beauty and all our emotions to a whole different level.

  • Some people are more equal than others

    2nd post of the day, as promised.


    The previous post was about how we are all broken people who are incapable of saving ourselves.  We are in need of a Saviour.  This does not change after we become Christians.  Christians are not superheros or sinless.  We have not overcome our flesh or our broken ways.  No.  We are still at their mercy whenever we stray too far from God.  It is Jesus who overcomes these things, and it is the power of the Holy Spirit in us that gives us victory.  When my heart and my thoughts are aligned with Christ, I feel like I can do anything.  But I know that it is not my power or my will.  My God enables me to overcome all things.  Without Him, I am as weak and broken as I was before.

    This realization brought me to one of my most significant ministry moments this year.  I have long identified with people in their hurts and their struggles.  Even if the specifics are different, the heart is still the same.  I fear and worry and stress and become angry and hope and get crushed just like anyone else.  In this sense, I am no different.  I am human.  Not superhuman.  This is not new to me.  But one day as I was talking with some people in small group, it dawned on me that they felt like (to paraphrase Animal Farm) we were all equal, but some people were more equal than others.  Even amongst sinners, they had regarded me to be of higher standing than them.  And they were too ashamed of their own sin and shortcomings to be real with me or each other.

    I would not have any of that.

    I took off my tie, rolled up the sleeves of my shirt, and said to them, “I’m not better than you.”  After a few minutes of explaining this to them, I proceeded to tell them how I had screwed up and fallen short, even that week.  I confessed my sins of that day in the center of that group.  Guys cried.  They prayed for me.  And we all took turns talking about how we had fallen short.  How we had broken promises and commitments and done things we didn’t want to do.  We shared from the heart and purged the shame from our souls.  We then prayed for each other.  And there was healing that day.

    If we are to believe, and remember, that we are all sinners… if we are to remember that we too have been forgiven much (and as a result, we ought to love much), then we have no moral high ground to stand on to be above anyone else.  Instead, we should be at the bottom of the valley with our brothers and sisters, pointing towards the man on the hill who can reach down and pick us up.  This is our place.  To be in the darkest depths.  Remembering how we once were, and remembering how we have been brought out and rescued.  And with our heavenly tether to Christ, we can dive back in, and become the rescue workers we are purposed to be.

    I saw a tweet from John Acuff the other day, who said that we should all give credit to Don Miller for setting the example of the “I’m not perfect” blog.  I responded back to him and said that if he set the example of “I’m not perfect,” then I want to be the guy to set the example of “I’m not better than you.”  If there is one blog I could write and provide material for consistently, that would be the one I would do.  To spread a message of universal brokenness, and that we, we, can look up to Christ and climb up that hill together.