psalm 27 (not quite a sonnet)

My heart would seek a hiding place,
A refuge strong against my foes;
So may I see Thy lovely face
And in my soul Thy praises grow.
Though armies rise to wage their war
Against my flesh and heart and mind,
Though all my kin forsake me, Lord,
A home in Thee I know I find.
So hear me as I cry to Thee
From depth of woe and war and pain;
Be faithful now to hear my plea,
That I may see Thy love again.
For in Life’s land, there Goodness dwells,
And there may I, by grace, as well.

for Your name’s sake.

Well! I seem to have taken an unintentional hiatus…

Things got even crazier after the last time I posted–I can’t really go into it here, but I hope it suffices to say that some people I love and I have been going through a lot of change and a lot of very difficult things, and God has been doing a lot of healing work, and a lot of tearing down of idols in the process.

My church does this thing called Kaleo College, where we link to some audio and we collectively listen to it and try to get together to talk about it. For this month and next month we’re listening to this class called The Bread of Adversity, based on Isaiah 30, and it’s been reframing how I’ve been thinking about suffering and the presence of God.

With all the chaos, too, there are signs of life: A couple of friends had a kid, another couple of friends are about to have their first kid, some other friends are in the thick of the foster-to-adopt process. Some friends just got engaged. I just ran a really fun program at the library where I work. I’m having a lot of good conversations with my new roommate, with other friends, and most importantly with Jesus.

I was thinking about Psalm 23, about how the shepherd’s rod and staff comfort us, and how even when I thought I’d been utterly abandoned by God at times, He was still there, protecting me, and guess what? As terrible as some things in my life have been, Jesus took the greater force of the impact for my sake. He dressed Himself in my shame, and my sorrow, and my sin. So if nothing else, in this season, I am learning not to be afraid, and I am learning to open up myself to other people for His name’s sake.

all things new.

I had a dream maybe a month ago–one of those where you’re sort of half-awake. I was married to a man created by my imagination, and in my dream he confessed to me: “I cheated on you.” Dream-me was understandably upset, and so was my husband, and I had to walk away for a while and cry it out, but then I came back and told him: “I still love you. I’m not leaving. If you want to leave, go ahead, but I want to make this work.”

And then I woke up crying, because even as I said that in my dream, the voice of God said in words beyond words: “And that is exactly how I feel about you. Come back.”

* * * *
It’s been a completely crazy first five weeks of the year–in the course of 38 days I’ve signed a lease on an apartment, totaled my car, started a new job, and accumulated all kinds of things to do. I’ve been tired and anxious and freaked out, and I must confess that in my attempt to escape I frequently turn to things to distract or numb myself. I’ve been cranky and frustrated and irritable and I find myself wanting to control other people. And as a result I feel like I’ve only caught occasional glimpses of God–even though I know He’s still there, and He is still faithful, my emotions haven’t quite caught up.

I keep circling back to the fact that despite the fact that I currently feel crazy and tired and a long way from God, He objectively sustains and loves and continues to stick around, despite my frequent infidelity. My stress and busyness and forgetfulness become tools in His hands to make me more like Jesus. That is a wonder and a beauty.

* * * *
What else is going on? Lots of things at church. I’m reading Gilead in preparation to tackle its sequels Home and Lila, and also Karen Swallow Prior’s rightfully praised biography Fierce Convictions. I’m also looking for a new car (see above re: totaling my old one–long story I don’t want to tell here). Trying to write more and maybe plan a vacation for later. Rocking out to Sojourn Church’s new album, which I stole the title of this post from. Looking to the future, always.

What’s new with you, friends?

in the name of love.

I haven’t seen Selma yet (although I fully plan to), but I have read this interview with its lead actor, David Oyelowo, and he says this in response to the question “Why should American Christians see this movie?”:

Because you see someone who doesn’t just talk about their faith; you see someone who walks it out, with sacrifical love. The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

That is not only what Dr. King did ultimately (in being assassinated); it’s what he did for those 13 years that he led the civil rights movement. Every day he sacrificed seeing his kids. He had to endure death threats. He had to endure ill health. He often went into the hospital for exhaustion, because he was constantly putting himself on the line for others. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.

It’s very easy to hold someone like Dr. King out at arms’ length, make him into an untouchable icon instead of a flawed, sinful, regular guy who got thrust into a particular time and place in history. (I’m not the only one thinking about this; I’ve seen similar sentiments all over Twitter today.) But that’s what he was, which is a comforting thought–if a normal, flawed guy can make a difference, that means I can, too. But it’s also convicting–if a normal, flawed guy can be called to that kind of difficulty and sacrifice, that means I can, too.

* * *
I just started work in a public library branch in what used to be the largest unincorporated African-American community in the South, what’s now a largeish neighborhood in northwest Houston. It’s unfortunately known for its high crime rates, something I was warned about repeatedly when I let people know I was going to work there.

I drive past a sign every day marking a street that’s called Ferguson, and wonder if that name feels weightier now in light of the events of last summer and fall. Likely not. But it reminds me.

And I’ve always been keenly aware of race, as a daughter of both the Korean forests and hills and of the American South and Midwest. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been aware of the history of minorities in this country. But now I find myself working with and for a neighborhood I’m not familiar with, and I occasionally catch myself thinking horrifying things.

This is now the opportunity for me to put into practice all the things I said during Ferguson–I am there to serve and not be served, to listen and to learn and to love my neighbor as myself, but also just to do my job well and treat people as people instead of obstacles, business as usual. Race, so far, hasn’t really been a big deal, but I still look around and think, let justice roll like a river here, too.

I’m just one woman. And I’m not a prophetess, nor the daughter of a prophetess, but if all my thoughts on the gospel and race and culture aren’t relevant in Acres Homes, I don’t know what use they are.

but by the mercy of our God, all of our hopes begin.

1. I think I’ve spent the majority of my twenties finally downloading the understanding that other people don’t think like I do, which is why I can’t think of other people as stupid or slow or weird or frustrating just because their thought processes are different from mine. You’d think I’d have gotten this before now, but I am, as it turns out, an intelligence idolater, amongst other things.

2. Oh, yes, happy 2015. Goals for this year: Submit something for publication or presentation(!), read at least half of the books on my to-be-read shelf, fit back in my prom dress and wear it somewhere. One of these days I need to sit down and write out a whole lot of things like short- and long-term goals, and plans to get there, but I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants so far this year and I haven’t made time…not the most auspicious start to the year, but I’m going to make it happen. A few weeks ago, my pastor preached on how true repentance leads to concrete, real-time action–we can’t just talk about the stuff, we have to dosomething about it. So this is the year of my doing the stuff, I guess.

3. What I have to guard my heart against, though, is doing the stuff for the sake of doing it instead of doing it for the glory of God and for the edification of others. One of the best books I read last year, Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next, made the significant point that true productivity is finding ways to do the most good for others for the sake of God’s kingdom, and I want to be better about that, and to do it in God’s strength and grace and not my own.

4. I turn thirty in four days. I feel still like so much of my life is ahead of me, like I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I think I had a lot of baggage to get over before I could even think about who I am and where I’m going, but it’s not like God didn’t know that. Here’s to my thirties being great.

5. Oh, yes, one more goal: Write a blog post at least once a week, to be published on Saturdays. Watch this space.

2014 book list.

Asterisk means it’s a re-read.

January 13: Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling
February 1: Mary Roach, Stiff
February 7: Mason Currey, Daily Routines
February 14: Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome
*February 21: Jen Hatmaker, 7
February 24: Preston Sprinkle, Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence
March 8: William Styron, Darkness Visible
March 22: Adam Feldman, Journaling: Catalyzing Spiritual Growth Through Reflection
April 14: Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
*April 15: C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer
*April 23: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods
May 4: Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way
May 19: John T. Edge, Southern Belly
*May 20: Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
May 21: George Orwell, Animal Farm
*May 26: Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor
*June 11: N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope
*June 14: John Green, The Fault In Our Stars
June 28: Jan Karon, A New Song
July 22: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers
August 2: Dorothy Sayers, Whose Body?
*August 8: Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters
August 15: Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm
September 12: Molly Wizenberg, Delancey
October 10: Andy Weir, The Martian
*October 11: Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys
October 25: Tim Keller, Center Church
November 7: Matt Perman, What’s Best Next
November 8: John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley
December 1: Tim Keller, Encounters With Jesus
December 8: Tim Keller, Prayer
December 12: Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear
December 21: Tim Chester, A Meal With Jesus
December 23: Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding
December 25: Billy Collins, Horoscopes For the Dead
December 30: John Piper, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully
*December 31: Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Fiction: 13
Non-fiction: 22
Poetry: 2
Most read author: Tim Keller
Top 10 new reads, in no particular order: Prayer, Stiff, The Silkworm, The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, What’s Best Next, Travels With Charley, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, The Martian, Center Church (especially the chapters on renewal)

25 things: 2014 in review.

1. Birthday: Dinosaur finger puppets, lunch w/my pastor, my parents giving me $29 in $1 bills
2. Pneumonia: Ughh.
3. 12th Doctor.
4. Difficult hashtags (find them on Twitter): #HowOldWereYou. #Ferguson. #YesAllWomen. #Mosul.
5. Pastor search at church. (We found one. He’s all right. :D)
6. Praying: For friends. For the church. For the country. For our brothers and sisters being persecuted. For revival.
7. Galveston: Pictionary. The whiskey that shall not be named. Settlers of Catan. Beach. Sunburns. “Beware!!!”
8. Framework on Wednesday nights.
9. Oh yes: Winter Olympics!
10. Watching the World Cup with the Dobbs and Steph (and then watching The Emperor’s New Groove afterwards).
11. Getting emailed a recipe from someone I only know through Twitter, which is a first.
12. The Sunday we set up church in 30 minutes…
13. Easter: Breakfast tacos before church, party at the Mullens’ after.
14. All the talk about mental illness after Robin Williams’ death.
15. Actual conversation had at work: “Can you help me figure this origami pattern out?” “Sorry, I’m the wrong person to ask about that.” “But…origami’s from Asia, you look Asian…” “………..”
16. Parties: Baby showers and sprinkles, birthday parties, CG Christmas party (including dancing from our fearless leader Nick Likos), the Mullens’ Christmas party, the going-away party for the Stroms
17. OH HEY I GOT A NEW JOB. (I don’t start until 2015, but I got the news and all a couple of weeks ago.)
18. Going to see this Korean folk dance show with Meagan, Chris, and Ephrem
19. Oh, yeah, speaking of parties, all the complete madness and joy that was planning and executing Kaleo’s 10th anniversary party and rebranding.
20. Lots of texts–hilarious, serious, sad news, great news, radio silence
21. The saga of my grandma and the ring (ask me about it if you’re curious)
22. Um so I wrote a song all by myself and it’s part of our regular rotation at church now and I was nervous as heck the first Sunday we sang it but people like it so yay
23. Finding out that I was not actually born in Seoul, but rather out in the country, in a South Korean county that’s 1/3 the size of the city of Houston and is about 70% forest (seriously! I actually looked at my records this year and this blew my mind).
24. Wrestling: With hormones, with my sin, with calling, with the thought that maybe I’m just stuck like this and won’t ever change, with whether or not I actually believe; for joy, for hope, for trying to find God nonetheless.
25. And in the middle of all that, God finding me.