starving for substance

Brain Vomit then a Hiatus

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 24, 2009

So Hopkins wrote a post recently that talked about self-examination, and there was a line that really rebuked me.  “For every minute of self-examination, there needs to be ten minutes of reading the Bible.”  If I do one thing well, it’s analyze myself.  I would say that I know myself extremely well; I know how I act in certain situations, how I react to certain situations, and I’m pretty sure I know why I react the way I do.  I examine the way I treat people, the way I mistreat people, and vice versa.  Pretty much any interaction I have with people and my environment, I replay it in my mind again and again trying to find out why I did what I did and why others did what they did.  If you think that I act dumb and say stupid things for the sole purpose of acting dumb and saying stupid things, it is with my utmost respect that I call you a complete idiot.  But Hopkins was dead right (as he usually is with his observations), I spend far too much time looking inward and far too little time looking at Jesus.

So I’m spouting forth one more deluge of thought before hanging up the blogging cap for at least a month.

Over the past couple days, due to some rather strange circumstances, I was forced to do a double take at how I viewed small group.  Now, CRH 4 is a pretty rocking small group, to say the least.  It’s such a blessing and a privilege to watch members grow and to see them change before my very eyes.  And it’s such a dangerous trap too.  I realized how I attributed the “success” in my small group to my own personal efforts and not to God.  How I got so lax in praying for them because I was so caught up in doing things for them.  In Mexico, Pastor Paul said some very funny things and also some very profound things and the quote that hit me hardest was something I scribbled down in my notebook: “Our job is not to be concerned with fruit or response but to be faithful and plant seeds.”

My QT for today was on Mark 4:26-29, “The Parable of the Growing Seed.”  In it, there’s a sower that sows.  He doesn’t know how the grain grows, he just knows he needs to plant the seeds.  There’s so much faith that’s in that action, and what a struggle it must be at times.  I thought about the people involved in relatively “fruitless” ministries, my mom a notable example.  She heads the youth ministry at my home church, and she told me how last Sunday she preached to an audience of two, one of whom was her daughter.

It was thinking about my mom a couple weeks ago that I had this ephiphany of what successful ministry was.  Whenever we go to California to visit relatives, we usually go to Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren (of Purpose Driven Life fame).  It’s a megachurch with tons of services and masses of people.  Can I call it a successful ministry because it’s so big?  No.  Bringing the example a little closer to home, can I call CFC a successful ministry because it brings almost a thousand college kids to church related activities on a weekly basis?  No.  Can I call my mom’s ministry successful when she preaches to an audience of two?  Yes.  Why?  Because when I’m at home, I see her diligently preparing throughout the week (and sometimes late into the night on Saturday) for a message she knows she’s going to be speaking to less than a handful of kids, all of whom will probably forget what she said less than 10 minutes after she’s done talking.  She’s faithful in the ministry that God gave her, and that’s the measure of success by which she will be judged.  And so using that standard, when I see the pastors of CFC, and what they sacrifice to be in Champaign-Urbana, and how they live their lives, I think I can call their ministry to the people of CFC successful.  I don’t know Rick Warren personally, so I can’t say anything there but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  Please don’t take this like I’m giving some kind of authoritative judgment on what successful ministry is, my point is that I think success in ministry needs to be measured in personal faithfulness to what God called you to do and not in the results (or lack thereof).

Back to my quiet time, I need to get back to the idea that I need to be dilligent in sowing seeds, not always looking for the fruit (which I’m so apt to do).  Sowing seeds is gritty, it’s difficult, but in the end, if that’s what God calls for, He’ll give you the strength to do it.  Not only that, there is joy and there is satisfaction in doing what He created you to do, so long as you don’t let yourself get clouded by worldly measures of success.  As I continue to pray about my future calling, and as it starts to materialize in front of me, I’m seeing this as a very necessary lesson to learn.  That I need to know how to sow seeds faithfully, not concerning myself with what’s going to happen afterward, merely trusting in God that as I sow seeds, finding joy in the fact that I’ll be doing what He asked me to do.  There is no personal glory associated with sowing, and I think that’s where my sinful nature goes haywire, but the words of John the Baptist echo in my head: “He must become greater, I must become less.”

Since this is a brain dump, I’ll finish with one last thought.

I had an interesting discussion with someone I’m starting to regard as the older sister I never had.  She’s someone much further down the road of sanctification than I am, yet she’s someone I can “be real” with, without the pretenses of pretending we’re super holy people.  I don’t have to hide my humanity, is what I’m saying.  We got to the topic of marriage, and how ridiculous it is to imagine how people can “spiritualize” away the element of human attraction in their relationships.  Thinking about this conversation some more, I think I’m starting to see marriage and relationships as a topic that receives a disproportionate amount of attention.  What do I mean by this?  We’re placed on this Earth for a purpose, to live a life that glorifies God.  We all have an area of our calling, but I don’t believe if we screw up and marry the wrong person God’s plan for our life will be derailed.  Remember, while there’s human responsibility, there’s also God’s sovereignty.  So yes, I would love to get married to an awesome woman, to a woman that brings the best out of me and that I bring the best out of her and that there will be a synergy as we try and live out our callings, don’t get me wrong.  But in the event that I screw things up, the world isn’t going to come to an end, and it doesn’t mean that I’ll have missed out on the chance to glorify God with my life.  So let’s not worry too much about all this hullabaloo, yes?  No?  E-mail me…

And with that, I’m out until the end of next month.  And yes, I failed in my resolution to read a book a month…time to recommit, eh?

Go play outside,
-steve

No Reservations: Who Am I?

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 22, 2009

Kind of a lame title, I know.  But one of my favorite shows on the Travel Channel (okay, it’s the only show I watch) is “No Reservations” hosted by world traveling, cynical commenting, food eating, chef, writer, and all-around butt kicker Anthony Bourdain.  The premise is simple: Bourdain will travel to places, visit non-tourist areas, and try and get a glimpse into the everyday life of his destination.  I have some qualms with how he does this, and if it is even an accurate portrayal, but that’s something I’ll realistically never get around to talking about.

The last episode detailed a trip he took to the Philippines, a trip suggested by an enthusiastic viewer who won a contest or something like that.  But this guy was a second generation Filipino who had only been to the country a couple times before, and never for an extended stay.  Bourdain is able to recognize pretty quickly how uncomfortable this guy (I should name him…)  feels when they get to the Philippines.  The excitement isn’t there, instead it’s replaced by a certain wariness about his surroundings.  It doesn’t mean he’s not happy to be there, he just feels out of his element.

It was at this point that the episode had my undivided attention.  What this guy was facing is a conundrum that faces pretty much every second-generation kid who, at first glance, does not blend in with the rest of society (i.e. not white).  To describe my experience with the subject, I spent all my time growing up in predominantly white communities.  I would go to school with white friends, play at the houses of white friends, and converse in English with my white friends.  I would go home and listen to my mom speak to me in Konglish (Korean and English), I would eat mostly Korean food, and was disciplined under Korean standards of discipline.  This is a pretty similar story for most Korean-Americans, except in my case, I never bothered to learn the language of my parents.  As I progressed through the years, I would try and associate with one side, and then the other.  In middle school, I went through an Asian phase, where everyone was a racist and I was this champion of justice…yeah, it kinda dwindled in high school where I kinda kept it up for kicks but inside just accepted the fact that I was white.

Then, after I took a trip to Korea the summer after my junior year of high school, I was ignited again.  It was so cool to blend in.  A sea of faces just as flat as mine.  Food that was good.  There were quite a few moments where I really felt at home.  Like I belonged.  Heck, I even ate dog!  I talked to my dad’s family and they all told me about the different study abroad programs at Yonsei University (“one of top school!” they had to emphasize…) and how I could visit them and yada yada yada.  I was really planning on doing it, then UofI’s business program slapped me in the face and got me so focused on getting ahead in life and blah blah.  Opportunity wasted.  Over the past year, I’ve realized I never really addressed this issue of who I was, and after watching this episode of “No Reservations” and thinking about it some more, I reached the same conclusion I got before.  I am who I am.  I’m not Korean, I’m not white, and it’s hard to say which one I associate more with.  I used to think that I could jump to one side, but the fact that I’m born looking like a Korean makes that impossible, and the fact that English is my first and only language makes going Korean equally impossible.  This doesn’t mean that I reject both sides, and it doesn’t mean that I embrace both.  Due to family situations, I’ve once again started a half-hearted attempt at learning Korean, yet I’m incredibly thankful to grow up in America and be this beef loving, corn raised, midwesterner (in Indiana, I once had to have soccer practice at a farm because my coach was a farmer…does it get more midwest than that?).

Probably my favorite memory of Korea was when I was at Lotte World (think DisneyWorld and Six Flags somehow combining and making BizzaroWorld) with my second cousins and I saw this white family in line for a roller coaster.  I casually asked them in my lazy drawl of English “Where you guys from?” and they just kinda stood there in shock.  And I think that’s what illustrates the second-generation Asian in America so well.  We look like one thing, but when we talk, another culture sometimes comes out.

The guy from the “No Reservations” episode realizes the same things I did, and I think for me, I used to be bitter that I couldn’t be one or the other (and I still am, a lot of time actually).  But being in the middle is just as nice, though sometimes I wish my eyes were a little rounder.  In the end though, there needs to be more thankfulness on my part about who I am and the way God made me.  So I’ll continue to eat my Kalbi and laugh at how effeminate most Korean guys are these day, and be content with straddling the line.

Hasta Luego,
-steve

[Edit] I realize that I detailed something that millions of others go through, this was just my personal experience with the issue and a nice plug for “No Reservations.” [/Edit]

Decrease and Increase

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 15, 2009

Looking over the past couple entries, there’s been a noticeable drop in the quality of these entries, though I feel like I’m churning them out with a little more regularity (I’ve been increasing fiber consumption…).

Some of this might be attributed to the story I had to write for my creative writing class.  Before that story, I had never written a story before, save for those ones from grade school where we had to make our own books…quality literature right there!  So after years of papers, and after a couple months of this blog, having to write something from a different point of view was incredibly alien and difficult, and probably not the best idea to go about it.  In the process of writing that thing, something weird got switched around in my head and now I can’t put things out that sound good.

It’s confusing.  Maybe quality programming can resume soon.

Taken Grace

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 12, 2009

Last week, me and my roommates had a movie night.  We crammed ourselves into my roommate’s room, made popcorn, and watched a movie.  Not the most masculine sight you will ever see, I can assure you.  However, the movie we saw more than made up for that night’s femininity.  The movie was called “Taken.”  To sum it up, it’s a stereotypical guy movie.  Lots of action, simple plot, 10 minutes to introduce characters and then non-stop action to finish it off.  Here’s the trailer.

Now, before all my female readers go to a different website, hear me out on this.  Embedded in this movie was one of the best gospel presentations I’ve seen in a while.  The daughter is essentially a spoiled brat.  Her parents divorced, and her step-dad is rich beyond all measure.  Her biological dad was some government operative and one tough mofo.  The character of the daughter is introduced as a materialistic and spoiled personality, essentially using her dad to get what she wants (a trip to Europe), and then lying to him so that she can do what she really wants (follow U2’s European tour).  He finds this out but lets her go, asking her to call him every night and whenever she goes somewhere else.  Basically, the father loves his daughter more than anything and the daughter has more important things on her mind.

Long story short, the daughter and her friend gets kidnapped and the father goes on a rampage to find her, and makes one of the best action movies in the process.  In one of the final scenes, as the father bursts through the door to find his daughter, she cries and says some of the usual “Daddy I love you” stuff that’s heard so often.

As I thought about the movie (well, actually I was thinking about this one scene where the father jams two nails into a kidnappers’ thighs and then hooks them up to an electric current to get him to talk but I guess that’s a different story), it really pissed me off because the daughter was so concerned with her own agenda and completely took for granted the fact that her father loved her and had her best interests in mind.  In fact, at the beginning she got so mad at her dad for not letting her go on her little Eurotrip that when he relents, it’s only then she says “I love you.”  So conditional.  Yet through her own conditional love, the love of her father remains unconditional.

And I guess through it all, when seeing the love one BA earthly father had for his daughter, it really makes you think of the love a heavenly father has for us.

Now, for some fun Valentine’s Day cards I found on cracked.com

I can imagine getting this one from my future girlfriend:
themayor11

Though getting this one is probably understandable as well:
sanchez

Enjoy!

Some Math for You Suckaz!

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 10, 2009
Sennheiser 202 Headphones, the best $20 you can spend

Sennheiser 202 Headphones

+

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

=

Sheer auditory bliss.

My sophomore year I was looking for a cheap set of headphones that would be more comfortable than ear buds or those irritating hook over the ear thingys I had.  I found these headphones on amazon.com for $20.  I recently acquired Beethoven’s symphonies at a high bit rate, and when combined, it’s mind blowing.  The sound is so rich.

The only downside to these headphones is that the chord is 10 feet long.  It is a hassle, but it does have its benefits (can watch movies from bed, etc).   So if you need headphones and you have $20 handy, here’s your pair!

It’s Fun Being Vague

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 5, 2009

I know that it’s pretty standard for second semester seniors to start to really question what they’re going to be doing within the next couple months, and I guess I’m no different.  But there are some weird things I feel like I need to prepare myself for…and what I choose to do for these next couple years can directly impact these things.  I think it’s for this reason I feel like this is the most important decision I will ever make in my life, and I’ve thought about it for a while and feel like I can say it with some certainty.

Ultimately, I know God is sovereign, but I don’t want to pick wrong and make Him work harder.  Plus it’ll suck more for me.  God was sovereign and Ninevah was prophesied to, but look at the trip Jonah had to take.

All that being said, I think the main takeaway is daily faithfulness.  This is the first time I can say it’s relatively easy to be faithful in my spiritual life, but my academic life is bombing.  I would say that I’m about two weeks behind in work, with more of it being piled on every day.  And there’s enough time to do it all, it’s just that my schedule is so choppy it’s tough to find a groove.  I’m still trying to get through E.M. Bounds on Prayer and one quote from it that really stuck out about how we’re supposed to pray for our daily needs, not so much our future.  Tomorrow will take care of itself, what’s more important is our daily bread.  I’m finding that rather applicable on an increasingly frequent basis.

On another note, I really miss my immaturity.  There was a time when me and some friends went to our hometown’s downtown area, doused ourselves in milk, and ran around in speedos.  It was in the middle of winter, I might add.  There was a time when I would blast rap music from a mini-van and drew inappropriate pictures in the snow on the hoods of cars.  I used to make “bling” out of aluminum foil during lunch and wear it around the rest of the day.  There was a time in middle school when I managed to get kicked out of class before it even began (I called my teacher an idiot, it was her fault though).  I know that now, I still have a tendency to act and say childish things, but if you see where I came from, I’d say I’ve grown up.  I hate having to act all grown up and mature.  And maybe, at it’s core, that’s where so much of my hesitancy and indecision comes from.  Not wanting to leave behind what I want to hold onto.  And here, especially in CFC, there’s this pressure to always look so holy.  To have all the right answers.  To be doing the “right” thing.  Whatever happened to just kicking it old school, to just being who you are?  There’s such a pressure to conform to this CFC standard, and frankly, I just can’t do it.  I don’t live and breathe sports, I can’t play basketball, I can’t play guitar, I have no quirky style of dress or trendy clothing, I’m the most white person ever, in fact the only way I seem to be able to connect with others is if the conversation drifts towards more “spiritual” topics (not like I can really hold my ground there either).  Even with that, everything has been so spiritualized.  It’s all “Fight your heart,” “I’ll pray for you,” blog posts that always start with difficulty and end with “then I realized how awesome Jesus is.”  And that’s great, but is that really what you feel on the inside?  To be honest, there have been plenty of times where I feel like Jesus is not enough for me.  When my heart is so bitter to begin with, how do I go about fighting it?  “I’ll pray for you” has become synonymous with “dang, that sucks.”  Whatever happened to upfront honesty?  Not saying you’re “fighting” but really explaining your struggles?  Also note that this isn’t a blanket critique of CFC, but just Christians in general.  Is it too much to just ask for some authenticity?

And that’s why I’m so thankful for my roommates.  I can go home, and while we can’t share about “deep” things like what we’re learning in our quiet times, we can at least have conversations about how it’s impossible to eat seven pounds of pudding, we can make fun of our roommate’s blind dog, the fact that I’m always at church (“who’s your girlfriend?”), how whipped someone is.  And in a lot of cases, I like it better.  I don’t feel like I’m judged, or being held to this standard of “coservant,” I can just go home and be Steve Ok.  So in fact, my behavior around CFC people is not actually indicative of who I am, it’s a more exaggerated attempt to lower your expectations of me so that I don’t have to worry about living up to any standards that I feel are there.  To put it in terms you guys understand, it’s failure layer.

And while incredibly vague to start with, I think that was the most candid I’ve ever been on this thing.

Even If

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on February 2, 2009

Career fair always makes me depressed.  Without fail.  This one, even more so.  I go there and see waste.  My fellow students whoring themselves out to companies, recruiters standing around ready to tout the amazingness of their firm.  It’s all so fake and so undesirable.  People think that I’m like this because I hate accounting, quite the contrary.  I just hate the idea of working for someone for a cause I really couldn’t care less about.  Why haven’t I changed majors?  A variety of reasons, but every job has aspects one hates, so looking for the “perfect” job is just chasing after the wind.

So many thoughts were rushing through my head at career fair.  Where I’m going to be years from now, where I’m going to be months from now, what I feel called to do.  A lot of those things don’t seem to reconcile with each other.  I understand the basic premise of faithfulness and doing what you need to do, but sometimes, I just can’t believe it.

To stay in Champaign and work a full time job is pretty bad.  There’s no other way to say it.  For some, it might be okay, but the prospects that are down here are nothing compared to what’s in a major city.  After career fair, and seeing what my options were, everything just kind of went up in smoke.  Even if I pass the CPA, I’ll have no where to use it.  I’m still struggling with whether or not I’m supposed to stay down here.  The list went on.

Usually, I’m not a big fan of escaping.  I’m one of those “face reality head on” types.  But today, I just came home and slept for four hours.  I just wanted to get away.

Walking back from career fair, I was thinking about what small group Bible study is going to be on.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  In that account, when it was made known to them that they’d be tossed in a fire, they said that they still would not bow down to an idol.  It didn’t matter whether or not God would save them, they simply were not going to do it.  In this world, we’re presented with idols to bow down and worship.  Money, fame, a good job, a good family, it can be anything.  Objectively, I knew that I was supposed to praise God in all circumstances, that He should get my worship over all those things, even if I don’t get what I want.  Yet I’m so conditional.

There is some major attitude change in order…*sigh*