Wow. So I haven’t touched this blog in a very very long time. Suffices to say that my life is completely different over a year later. I am now residing in Sunny SoCal, closer to family, and involved in so many amazing ventures it’s hard to imagine that this is what God had in store when I posted my last blog entry. It does, admittedly, come with some sacrifices. I very much painfully miss the people in Virginia that I left and constantly keep them in my prayers but life moves on for all of us. Regardless, it would be an understatement to say that I am humbled by my current position in life and very excited on what’s to come in the future.

One big part of my return to CA was to be part of Union Restoration Chapel again. For those that don’t know what’s going on, Union Restoration Chapel is Union Evangelical Church’s EM. For the past few years there had been a huge movement in the church to the point that it almost felt like a “reset” button had been pressed with the people of the church and its structure. Union is famous for being the “home” church. Many of our members have been part of the congregation since they were kids and even the pastors were part of the EM in some form or fashion in the past. Our pastoral staff defines restoration in christ and everyday I can be part of ministry with them is an absolute honor. In my time with the congregation I’ve learned how faithful God has been in instructing me in the past at ODPC and essentially raising me to bring what I had learn to this blossoming ministry.

We are currently building our by-laws and something that seems to keep coming up is Finance. Now a recent article on NPR noted the insanely extravagant way “churches” utilize their finance and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly disturbed by it all. Foremost, people like Joel Osteen are part of these organizations which is a whole different topic (short: Joel Osteen is very very misguided) and all I can see is the deterioration of the representation of the Gospel. For those that are unaware the IRS does  not require churches to disclose financial reports. This…I don’t like.

Churches should be held to the highest standard of how money is utilized. If there is no formal standard, churches should openly disclose this information voluntarily as a sign of good faith. One thing I absolutely will not be part of is an organization that hides how their money is spent from the very people that are responsible for the growth of the congregation. I believe in a checks and balances that allows for churches to be held accountable to how their finances are utilized to not only show their congregation that the leadership is to be trusted, but to the world that we are not slaves to wealth and riches. I see these 16,000 member congregations preaching prosperity gospel and I see a business, not a church. I see ways to increase the size of the pocketbooks of the “ministers” as they lead their congregation off a spiritual cliff. I see people captivated by greed… forgetting where their true riches lie.

1 Tim 6:17-19 (Phi) Tell those who are rich in this present world not to be contemptuous of others, and not to rest the weight of their confidence on the transitory power of wealth but on the living God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in kindly actions, to be ready to give to others and to sympathize with those in distress. Their security should be invested in the life to come, so that they may be sure of holding a share in the life which is real and permanent.

Christians, I highly encourage all of you, especially those that are leading ministries to be very upfront about how you spend your money. This not only keeps you accountable to others, but allows you to reflect more seriously on how materialism has a hold of you. Know the difference between want and need and realize that being a good steward with your worldly riches brings far more blessing than anything the world can offer.

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Admittedly, this blog post was long time coming. Anyone who I’ve had the privilege of meeting and gotten to know beyond the simple hellos and goodbyes knows that I’ve always felt out of place. I love the east coast and the pace of life there but I’ve definitely felt like a fish out of water for the past 8 years of my life. I’ve grown and matured tremendously and I contribute that a great deal to my time on the EC but I’ve always felt like everything seemed so foreign to me. I still don’t get the lifestyle choices a lot of people make, the bizarre sense of entitlement/ pseudo affluence, and the terrible drivers. I don’t understand the logic of the infrastructure choices that resulted in having a 3 lane highway constantly under construction yet never expanding and no room for expansion in one of the fastest growing areas in the u.s.

The one thing that keeps me in the area is the amazing people I’ve met in my time on the east coast. There’s quite a few people that I would debatably stay in VA long term for and they know who they are so this won’t be a sentimental story about how people have changed my life. Out of the muck, I’ve met so many supportive loving people that I’m grateful for and thank God for daily. They’re people that brought me back to the church after a pretty rough few years where I was incredibly disenfranchised with the church and the hypocrisy of it all; they proved it otherwise. They’re amazing people and I would be so privileged to live life along side them until my dying day.

The only problem is… I still feel out of place. I always feel like I have to force my hand constantly and it really has caused a really jaded view on life. Then I return to CA to visit family and see my sister graduate from college. Everything makes… Sense. Now the opposite problem arises in this situation. I love the environment. Large freeways, gorgeous weather, beautiful landscape (let’s ignore the yearly brush fires for just a second) and people that can actually drive. But I’ve broken a lot of ties since I lived in california. I have been less than terrible at keeping ties with the majority of people I knew in California and given my past, I don’t regret my decision. I have some great life long friends here and my family is settled out here as well but I really don’t have my own community… Yet.

In the next few months especially with God blessing me so much in my work life, I’ve been given the opportunity to move anywhere and work the same job, climb to higher positions in the same way and possibly do what has always been on the back of my mind: Return to the homeland. I’ve come to the realization that either area would make me immensely happy with my life regardless of my issues so I honestly do what I always do to keep my life simple:leave it up to a higher power. God has brought me here, and time has proven that life is much more satisfying and less complicating to just let go and let God dictate direction. the next few months will be an interesting crossroad and I eagerly wait for what’s to come.

 

I was really hoping I would never write this blog post but it’s gotten to the point that I can’t ignore this anymore. Idols in Christian life are so ridiculously well placed that we fail to address them. In my recent walk with my faith, I’ve noticed a lot that’s bothered me recently and I’ve spoken to a few brothers in regards to this growing trend. It’s masked under “reviving my Christian walk” and other pretty guises but it comes out to be the same problem: Idolizing.

The particular Idol I would like to address is this “pseudo-pilgrimage” to other churches to “get away” from life. First off, Christians don’t have a required pilgrimage because… well it would go against everything the faith stands for… but I believe its a great thing to visit the locations from which the gospel was preached and molded into what is now considered Christian faith. I have nothing against this and rather encourage it. The problem I have with these pseudo-pilgrimage is when you villain-ize your current surroundings to the point that you convince yourself that these are merely distractions you must get away from in order to fully encounter the works of God. You begin to put this unreal image upon your current church that you subscribe to only this “famous” theology. The Gospel is the Gospel no matter your location. I really take offense when people talk about how they need to go somewhere else (such as a famous church) in order to encounter God.

For one, you’re running away from a missions field. If you have this urgency in your heart that something’s wrong in the community, take the first step and address the issue. God encourages rebuking and teaching alongside grace and mercy. The one cannot exist without the other. If you’re not living in Spirit and Truth, you’re simply living in the Flesh and Lies, its as straight forward as that. Be an encouragement to your brothers and sisters around you. Walk with them even if you want to run.

I understand people need times of refreshment and revival but I really question when people send me emails stating “this gives me an opportunity to be in a community where God is the focus of many.” This has such a judgmental tone implying that those around this individual are not God focused and are such lost causes that you have to get away from them to encounter God. Not only is that unbiblical, but its a complete and utter insult to the church as a whole. I really hope this wasn’t the heart of the person when these types of emails and letters come my way because it’s such a damaging attitude and I really don’t fault the person for writing these things, but merely provide caution to their actions. If it was just one person, I would merely address that one person privately but this has become a very obvious problem as of late. Yes I understand the classic “difficulties” of worship in a setting of financial success and affluence but really, its just an excuse. The gospel is wasted if its just shared among already believing Christians. It’s easy to be around like minded people who can affirm everything you say, but really? is that living out the Gospel? is that living out the Great Commission? or are you merely practicing a form a pseudo-Christianity and self-help? How do you reach out to the lost confined to a room with other Christians? How do you love on the sick, clothe the poor, and feed the hungry sitting in a room listening to sermons? The Gospel is wasted by us if there is no response.

You don’t need to go anywhere to encounter God. God places you in certain places for a reason and like Jonah, sometimes the place you’re placed might not be very appealing to you, but be faithful in your surroundings. You don’t need to run off to somewhere else to encounter God. God is right here.  This kind of mindset of “pseudo-pilgrimage” merely turns into idolization of a church and becomes “why can’t we do X like church Y does? why don’t we have Z like church Y does?” and nothing but resentment in God’s work in that church you are called to. Be very careful when you start thinking in this setting. Stop looking for escapism and start looking towards God and the calling He has for you in the place you’ve been called to.

Those that have known me for the past three years have heard me talk about opening a coffee shop once or twice. It’s always been a dream of mine, but nothing I’ve looked “too seriously” at. Sure, I know how much start-up money I need, what furniture I want, how much staffing, etc, but to say I’m serious? NAH. It’s always been a “romantic” dream of mine, tucked away in the dark reaches of my mind to uncover during times of quiet serenity by myself. Recently I’ve been rediscovering my love for cooking and more and more I start opening my cookbooks and revisiting a few of my favorite recipes, finding that … I seriously love cooking.

For those that don’t know, obviously by now you know that I’ve wanted to open a coffee shop, but not just any coffee shop. I believe in a place you can come and just enjoy yourself. A place of warmth and creativity. No boring scones here. Only the best, freshly made pastries and desserts, chocolates, sandwiches, serving the best coffee and espresso drinks (I’ve grown to appreciate this more and more living out in northern Virginia and suffering through countless bastardizations of desserts). Want to see how the kitchen runs? Just ask! Want a recipe? Sure! No gimmicks, no “trendy” nonsense. Just good, timeless eats and drinks.

Friday and Saturday nights, we’d be open later with live music and adult twists on the desserts and drinks. Bourbon hot chocolates, Raspberry vodka terrines, and your standard mixed drinks. A place to meet people and enjoy yourself without having to suffer through chaos at the clubs and bars.

Now… I’ve always been thinking about this in the back of my mind but never really drove hard to make it a reality. The statistics of failure rates of restaurants is enough to scare anyone and I also have a very steady job that pays really well for utilizing what I actually went to college for. My aspirations of culinary school being thwarted multiple times…plus I know maybe one or two people that would seriously join me in this journey and all of us are in the same situation, some that would seriously take over and make this something I would never want it to be. Still… I can’t help but walk by these vacant units at the buildings near my work and imagine my coffee shop come to life… a rustic, welcoming space and a lit up sign that illuminates the street reading… Jonny’s … It’s a pipe dream for now… maybe one day.

It’s a really interesting feeling being back in California. So much changes while I’m gone yet everything still has its hints of familiarity to it that it still feels like home. I’d only been gone a few short months this time around since I last visited (which was also the last time I wrote an entry on this site) and even then, things are drastically different some for the better, some at a fault.

One great change is my grandmother’s condition. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling coming back to visit grandma at the nursing home where I last left her and seeing her sitting up on her bed. It seems like such a simple thing but we’re talking about a woman that couldn’t move or go to the bathroom in her own and there she was sitting up on her bed. I find out later that she’s gained weight (a plus at that age) and she’s walking on her own. Her appetites back, no machines keeping her alive. Just her, her bible and her knitting needles. Her smiles returned too and after months of worrying and two weeks of hell while visiting her at the hospital, it’s a welcome change. She jokes like she used to and laughs with such energy again. She’s obviously cared for lovingly by the nurses at the home and I can’t express my gratitude towards my parents and the staff at Woods for showing her the same loving care as they would their own family. I’m in a sense… Unneeded which is a surprisingly good feeling in this context. Grandma still likes to be fed but that’s only because shes gained her sense of humor back and likes to be pampered… It’s not like she needs our help. Despite the improvement, we’ll still keep visiting 3 times a day and never relent on bugging her every chance we get…we love her too much to do any less.

It’s strange, but I’m starting to feel like a guest in my old house. The room i grew up in doesn’t really say… Jonathan anymore… It’s more like an office space with a bed. Most of my childhood possessions are in the hands of two little boys down the street by the names of Hyunbin and Hanbin and those two rascals enjoy it as much as i did when i was young. Still… It’s such a good feeling seeing those two kids and seeing their faces light up. You know you’re going to be exhausted by the end of the night playing robots and more recently the evil villain that’s defeated by two little “iron men” but it’s so fun and I’d take it over a night at a bar any day of the week, although It’s scary to think I’m being domesticated…

My parents are like a young married couple again. I came home to empty refrigerators with none of the essentials I’ve so been accustomed to having… Like… Milk… I find out that my parents don’t really cook anymore but for special occasions. They spend most days eating take out… Strange to think it took them 25 years to get to this point in their marriage… A little food for thought. Theyre like a well oiled machine and I’m more tired following them around running errands and spending time with family than I ever am in VA. I’m tired by 9 every night and my dad laughs about how I’m always complaining I’m tired. Moms picking up new hobbies and Dad doesn’t look like the overstressed old man he did a few months ago. They ask the same questions “when are you planning to go to law school?” “why aren’t you dating?” “are you working out?”, but new topics have sprung up like me teaching my mom new cooking techniques and recipes which i never thought i would do.

Friends… It’s strange because i can admit even during my high school days that even when surrounded by tons of people I never felt like I fit in. I went along with whatever everyone else did but things just didn’t seem to fit right and i guess my current condition seems to only prove my suspicions in the past. With the exception of a few, I had no real urge to reach out to old friends. I figure they’re busy with their lives and I’m busy with mine and the universe doesn’t end if i don’t meet up with them so whatever. Granted some I’d hoped to meet up with but do to time constraints or my time with family, i was unable to, but such is life and we continue on regardless. My one really treasured moment this trip will be that one day i spent getting to know someone “new.” A night I expected to cut short because I’m one pessimistic jerk but ended up never wanting it to end. That night was the perfect embodiment of what this holiday vacations been about “the old mixed with the new in strange and wonderful ways” i really wish I had some more time here but with only two solid days left, I have only so much time left… Much of which will be spent at my grandmas bedside reminding her that she’s knitting a scarf and not a sweater.

Finally, all this time in pseudo self-induced isolation has reminded me of the type of person I am and the person I’ve become and personally, I’m not happy with the person I’ve become. I come from humble backgrounds and I’m sickened by the overly… showingness I’ve become. I try to be considerate of everyone around me and make sure that their comforts and joys are set before mine, but I’ve really forgotten to take care of myself. A close friend of mine always jokes about how I turn into a “lone wolf” when left to my own vices and really that’s who I am and I like it like that. I love people and I love interacting and growing from others but I always forget to step back and really enjoy what I love. If I have on resolution this year it’s this… Go back to my roots and start thinking about what’s most important in my life and invest everything of me into that. Cut the fat (whether it be bad habits or even people) and focus on what matters most. Make my relationships, while fewer, more meaningful.

These past days being back in VA has been rather… chaotic in itself.

First off, a praise report to the masses. Grandma is doing amazing. Thank you everyone for your prayers during a very hard time in our family’s life. Grandma’s calcium levels are back to normal and she’s moving about great in the nursing home. Doctor’s said she could go home now, but only under 24 hour care and right now that’s not possible in our family so please continued to pray for my Grandma’s comfort at this time. Our family has grown closer together during this time and we’ve definitely seen love come from so many directions that I can’t help but feel overwhelmed right now.

With that said, I’m back in the metro DC area now and trying to cope with day to day life. During my time in California, obviously life continued on for my friends but one in particular has become an amazing testament to unwaivering faith. For the sake of this person’s privacy, I will call this person, Faith (and speak in a feminine tense since I don’t know any guys named Faith), because it’s so fitting. Faith has been an incredible encouragement to me during the past few days I’ve been back.

We spoke about how her faith was growing so much while I was gone caring for my grandmother. We spoke about how we were excited to see what God had in store for both of our lives, but we never knew that her life would be changed so immensely so quickly. God wanted change in this person’s life and He made direct and deliberate moves incredibly quickly in Faith’s life. Like a lot of growth in our lives, this hurt Faith and her was struggling with what God had prepared for the future. I tried to be as much of an encouragement as possible and did what I could to support Faith during this time but most of the time I was just watching.

Faith was thrown into the fire and tested to see what she was made of in a way that I’ve seen very few people exposed to in such a direct way. I felt for her and hurt for her but I was still encouraged on how Faith held her head up high. It was obvious that she was wrestling with what was placed in front of her but she continued to press on. This struggle culminated recently with a sermon that while I was listening to, almost seemed to speak directly on what she was going through and was an encouragement to me as well after going through a rather emotional draining 2 weeks with my grandmother at her bedside. 1 Peter 5:10 was spoken in truth and I had always held this verse in my heart and kept reminding Faith during her struggles to hold onto God’s promises. She stood on those promises in a way that challenged my faith and my resolve for the Gospel. I have to admit that if I was in Faith’s situation, I would have had my faith shaken to the core, but she held on and God has blessed her so much even in her times of darkness and confusion. Needless to say… I’m incredibly proud of her and immensely encouraged by Faith’s “even though” faith.

We go through life expecting things to go our way and as Christians we seem to hold it against God when things don’t. We forget that our lives are not our own but we are elected strangers to this world and have bigger things to do than to worry about our comforts and our bank roll. Watching Faith during this time has reminded me that as a Child of Christ, God takes a more direct approach to our lives if we ask for change and growth. If He doesn’t want you going in a direction, He’ll make sure you change whether you like it or not, but after the dust has settled, you’ll realize what a blessing it was that God intervened and even in Faith’s life I am incredibly excited on what God has in store for her life. God knows better than you on what is necessary and what is a cancer in your life and what is required for you to grow and serve Him. If that means hard times and struggles, so be it. Faith reminded me of this.

Faith has also reminded me of what it means to be a true friend. We spend our lives nowadays in a haze of “fast food” friends. People we don’t really know intimately yet we pretend that we’re so close. We break bread and share in drink but we’re never willing to carry each other through the fire. Faith carried me through the fire during my time with Grandma and I received the privilege of doing the same for her during her time of testing. I tend to be incredibly jaded in how I conduct myself around people. I tend to not trust the intentions of a person from our initial meeting and it’s something that I’ve always struggled with. I try not to put up a front of being the nicest person in the world because I know I’m not. Even in church, I try to be as “real” as I can because I feel like I’m lying if I try to hide my true feelings about people. With that said, I don’t hate or incredibly dislike anyone but I have very few friends I would consider close and personal. These are people that have helped me through the fire and I trust with every detail in my life. These are brothers and sisters that have been my hands and feet when I was too weak and too blinded to know what was best for me. Faith has been one of those friends and in the short months we’ve been close friends, Faith has carried me through countless fires and I thank her immensely for it.

God has blessed me with such an amazing friend.

Faith… Thank you.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Today was, for lack of better word, an emotional roller coaster.

To help with Grandma get accustomed to her conditions in the nursing home, my parents had decided to spend less time at her bedside and visit for about 2 hours at a time around mealtimes. This would make grandma less dependent on us and because we trust the staff at Woods so much, gives them an opportunity to meet and get to know Grandma without us crowding the room. The staff there is unbelievable and I have so much more comfort in my heart that I can return to VA with zero hesitation knowing she’s in the best hands possible. Everyone there takes such a loving touch to their patients and I know Grandma’s is loved the same way. Her nurses have all learned small bits of Korean to make her comfortable and you can see the small smile on her face show up when they try. Because of this, my sister and I made our visit around lunchtime today to feed Grandma and spend some time with her. First off, my uncle and aunt were there but we’ll get to them later. When they left, and Grandma’s lunch came, we went through our usual routine but Grandma was in a noticeably different mood. She was devouring her food with no complaints and had no complaints about her back itching. While this seems like something so trival, if you had been by her bedside for the past week, you’d know that every 5 minutes was plagued with “I’m full, I don’t want anymore food” and “my back itches scratch it!!” According to the doctor, because of the treatments she had been receiving, she’d feel an unusual amount of itchiness across her body. That was all gone today. We discovered her calcium levels had returned to normal and incredibly, her kidney health had actually improved. Apparently a health kidney scales between 0-23 and the higher the number the worse off your kidney is. Grandma was admitted into the hospital with a 93. Today was 82. Her kidneys are getting better. How? I have no idea. You medical people can probably explain it but it’s amazing and encouraging news for me and my family.

After lunch, Grandma’s physical therapist, Emily, came in to do a second round of exercises. She had come in the morning to run Grandma through some exercises and Grandma had walked 5 feet without any help and sat on her wheel chair for 2 hours. Keep in mind this woman couldn’t stand on her own two feet even 3 days ago and couldn’t stay sitting for more than 15 minutes. Emily ran Grandma through a few more exercises and her upbeat attitude was definitely encouraging Grandma. Even though she knew Grandma couldn’t understand her, Emily continued to motivate her and even gave Grandma a kiss on the head to which Grandma gave out a small laugh. First time, Grandma was asked to stand up and march in place to which she did beautifully. Second time, Grandma was asked to merely stand up but she began to not only march but walk forward to all of our surprise. We cheered her on as she walked forward and backward in the small space between her bed and the wall. It was a big step towards recovery for Grandma and we couldn’t be prouder of her. It’s people like Emily who take a personal step to caring for Grandma that makes me so happy to know that this truly is where God wants Grandma to be taken care of.

Because of the nursing home, our family has actually been able to connect/reconnect with people. Turns out my third grade teacher, Mrs Holmes’s mother is at the nursing home as well and my mom and her were able to speak a little. Hopefully in the small amount of time I have left here, I can see her as well.

Everything in regards to my Grandmother’s health has been incredibly encouraging, but there is one thing that has constantly been a thorn in my side. I spoke earlier about my uncle and aunt. For those that want a full run down of what’s going on in the family, feel free to call and we’ll talk but more or less, let’s just say our families don’t see eye to eye. There have been slanderous remarks thrown around and honestly, I simply just don’t like my uncle. Ever since I was a kid he’s always been incredibly condescending and overly… preachy and it finally came to a headway today. As I had said before, uncle and aunt were sitting by Grandma’s bedside when Carolyn and I had arrived at the nursing home. Immediately uncle starts going off. He starts complaining about how the nursing staff was horrible here and left Grandma to rot in her wheelchair (which if you recall, her sitting in the chair was part of her physical therapy). He was complaining about every little thing and saying how negligent and horrible the place was and I held my tongue for as long as I could but finally I had to speak up. I told him firmly but politely that he had no idea what he was saying and he really needed to shut his mouth because no one wants to hear it. I told him that the staff here is amazing, the care they give her is great and I take personal offense to his allegations and he was going too far by saying that the staff had abandoned Grandma. This was the first time I had ever said anything along these lines to my uncle and he was noticeably shocked. He commanded my aunt to pick up her things and that they were going home despite my aunt’s wishes to at least be around when Grandma ate her lunch. I wanted him gone and out of Grandma’s presence because he just brings with him a real bad aura of negativity.  After they left the anger inside was boiling but I kept my composure around Grandma.

I praise God for my Grandma’s improved health. We were ready for the worst and God blessed Grandma with not only improved health but people to surround her that loved her even when they’d only knew her for a few days (honestly, Grandma’s beautiful and incredibly sweethearted so if you don’t love her immediately, you’ve got some problems dude). I’m elated by the fact that Grandma has not lost her resolve and still holds to the title of strongest willed woman in my life. She still hasn’t lost her reliance on prayer and her continued faith is an encouragement to everyone.

On the other side, I’m still burdened by the issues in our extended family. I don’t regret speaking up today at all but I know there are issues in this family that need to be resolved. Honestly, if I never see that man again I’d probably be happier (out of sight, out of mind) but in the end, he’s still family and I never quit on family no matter how nutty or crazy they are.  He just drives me insane that’s all. I just need some piece of mind that they don’t bother Grandma while I’m gone.