Reflections, Hopes, Dreams, and Goals

January 5, 2014

For the first time in my calling as a pastor, I stayed home on a Sunday I was suppose to preach instead of guiding people through our practice of worship.  Due to the winter storm that raced through Indianapolis, worship was postponed until next week.  It was an odd feeling sitting at home eating a breakfast of eggs, waffles, grapes, and coffee realizing that I could stay in my pajamas all day if I chose to do so.  I guess there is a first time for everything.  This was the first time that I ever cancelled a worship service due to weather and the first time that I had a Sunday off when I wasn’t either on vacation, a continuing education event, or deathly ill!

This morning gave me time to consider all the changes that my family and I have gone through over the last 13 months.  In the last 13 months, we have moved twice during the season of Advent (once from Illinois to Indianapolis and then from Broad Ripple to Fall Creek Place).  We have discovered a whole new rhythm as a family with only one working parent!  Thankfully, I believe that my wonderful wife has the harder calling of staying home with the kids than I do pastoring a congregation.  I watch her with our kids and I think to myself “wow, she is really gifted with them!”

We have lived through a rental home that had a small rodent issue (mice to be precise), through the challenges of looking for a home, buying a home, renovating said home, and finally moving in!  If that sounds crazy, well, it sort of felt crazy for a while.  Through this process, I think that we have made an incredible mark on our oldest son who took my wife’s phone to show his friends pictures of the new home and renovation that was underway.  These are the exact words of my sweet 5 year old, “Look, that is granite.  We have granite counter tops and they are so beautiful!”  He so much prefers the DIY network to Barney, but then again, who wouldn’t?

It feels for me and I think for my entire family that we have found a home in Indy.  It is  feels like a place that we can call home for years to come.  We are grateful to have found a place like this and a place where we feel our children will grow up for the next 20 years.  The congregation I serve is an amazing collection of quirky and eclectic people.  They are diverse in thought, age, and opinions.  They are a community with visions and energy and I believe that this upcoming year could help provide a launching pad for the congregation as they live into their dreams and hopes of how they want to live out their calling as faithful followers of Christ. I am so excited to journey with them through this process and I look forward to where God leads us in the future.

Personally, I hope that this year will provide a sense of peace and renewed grounding.  Last year was a tough adjustment for all of us.  My children had to get comfortable in a new city.  My wife had the greatest challenge of transitioning to be a stay-at-home parent and also a volunteer at the co-op daycare that both of our children attend.  She has transitioned from being pastor and a pastor’s spouse to being a pastor’s spouse and has done it with so much grace I marvel at her ability to cope with the change so graciously.  We both enjoy Indianapolis and I believe we feel grateful to God for calling us to be here.

Change, as difficult as it is, also brought some surprising joys.  I know longer had an hour commute to church.  I had a 10 minute drive to my office and the shorter drive allowed me time  to train and run my first half-marathon!  My amazing wife was able to get her first organized bike ride in through the rolling hills of Kentucky!  She rode over 100 miles over 2 days.  Now that’s crazy!

This year there are more hopes along the way.  I start a leadership program through the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence.  I am looking forward to learning from a variety of people from a variety of fields as we all learn how to lead our organizations more effectively.  I am looking forward to getting back to work to start mapping out an action plan to live into the dreams the congregation feels called to live into.  And I am hoping to live into way of being that allows myself to be more open to all life has to offer.

I was reading a poem written by Carrie Newcomer.  And her poem “A Permeable Life” is something that I continue to live into.  So I share with you this poem.

A Permeable Life

I want to leave enough room in my heart

For the unexpected,

For the mistake that becomes knowing,

For knowing that becomes wonder,

For wonder that makes everything porous,

Allowing in and out

All available light.

An impermeable life is full to the edges,

But only to the edges.

It is a limited thing.

Like the pause at the center of the breath,

Neither releasing or inviting,

With no hollow spaces

For longing and possibility,

I would rather live unlocked,

And more often than not astonished,

Which is possible

If I am willing to surrender

What I already think I know.

So I will stay open

And companionably friendly,

With all that presses out from the heart

And comes in at a slant

And shimmers just below

The surface of thing

This year, my word for 2014 is presence.  I think that the last year was a year filled with distractions.  I was racing to keep up with everything that was happening and this year I really want to be attentive to what is happening in my life.  Life is about digging deeper and being open to the fullness of it all.  Here is to living into the fullness and be present so that I might appreciate it all!

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In the Beginning- a sermon for January 5!

January 4, 2014

“In the Beginning”
Psalm 147:12-20, John 1:1-18
January 5, 2014
Rev. Won Ho Kim

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.

The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.

I love that phrase, “in the beginning!” It is phrase that signals the start of something or the becoming of something. These are the first words of the Bible where we read, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.” The anticipation of starting something or the creation of something new is both hopeful and stirs a wonderful excitment in our lives. Whenever I start a new project or when I sit down to write, I begin to wonder, “hm, where is this going to lead me.” So whenever I hear these words in Scripture, I begin to ask the same question, “where is God leading me today?”

For some of us, today is just the 5th day of the new year. But for us as a people of faith, today is the day we celebrate Ephiphany, the day the magi coming to celebrate Jesus’s birth. We still find ourselves in season of Christmas even though it feels as if that celebration happened so long ago. There are some friends of mine who take their decorations down as soon as Christmas day is over. Yet, we are in the 12 days of Christmas, a time to pause and reflect on the gift given to us by God called “Immanuel”, God with us. This time of reflection is incredibly important because as we enter a new year, we find ourselves needing to get ready for the daily grind of our daily lives.

This is why we need to hear the Christmas story once again, to remind us of the hope and joy that has entered our lives and our world. The Gospel of John begins with those wondrous words, “In the beginning!” This is how the Gospel of John begins retelling the story of Jesus’ birth. Unlike the Matthew and Luke, the story does not begin with angels or shepherds. It begins with these words:

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.”

This is how we find out about the birth of Jesus! In the beginning was the Word, God’s Word to the world was Jesus! And the second line that deals with his birth comes in verse 14. “The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus made us his home. It is a story that speaks of God becoming human to take on everything we will ever experience and be reminded just of how much we are loved.

The Gospel of John is trying to get to the point of why Jesus entered the world. Verses 11-13 share the story of why Christ was born into our world. Listen to these words:

“The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God.”

Did you catch that? Jesus came that we might become children of God. Children that is, who are not dominated by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, not defined by our limitations or hurts, and whose destinies are not controlled by others. Rather, we are those individuals who know ourselves to be God’s own beloved children. Jesus’ birth was a way to show us that we are God’s own beloved children. God loves us so greatly, the light of God’s love shines so brightly that there is nothing that can extinguish that light or love from us. No one can take that away from us.

Sometimes, I think that many of us believe that those words that are used to describe us are also words that define who we are. I think that too often we allow certain elements of our lives to dominate and define us. So often, we allow things like our upbringing or our interests (both good and bad), sexuality, marital status, or past triumphs and tragedies to dominate and define who we are. All of these things are important, but they are descriptive in nature, they are not meant to define us. These might be words to describe us, but they are never words meant to define us. I believe that John is inviting us to see ourselves in a fuller light. David Lose, professor of preaching at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, MN says it this way.

“What is definitive — and therefore more important than all the good or bad things we carry with us — is that God has called us God’s own children, individuals who hold infinite worth in God’s eyes, deserve love and respect, and will be used by God to care for God’s beloved world.”
I love these words and I believe them to be true. But one of the things I am working on in 2014 is not only saying that I love an idea, but living into it fully. I am wondering if this year, I can practice this idea that I deserve love and respect and that I actually will be used by God to care for God’s beloved world? Is there a way that I can live into this specific belief? So I am giving you all a challenge that I think is a pretty simple but difficult challenge given by Professor David Lose. What would happen if for the rest of January, each of us committed to a simple but profound exercise, some sort of spiritual discipline! Once every day — and it will be easier if it’s the same time each day — look in the mirror and say the following: “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world.”

Boy, that sounds simple, but I know from personal experience that these words are actually rather hard to say and even harder to believe. And that is why we actually need to say these words for the next month. If you are like me, the first few times you say these words and look in the mirror and wonder, “am I really a child of God deserving of love and respect?” So often, we will have a tape of all the things we find ourselves ashamed of or all those times that we failed running through our heads. Those tapes so often overcome the message that we have the opportunity to be the beloved children of God!
This is why John’s Christmas message is so important. Because in the face of all these messages — many of which are rooted in something that is descriptively true (we have made mistakes, disappointed ourselves and others, and all the rest) — John asserts that what is definitively true about each and everyone of us is that Jesus gives each one of us the “power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” And nothing can change that.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.”

Remember folks, we, we are the children of God and the light of God is working through us and nothing, nothing will ever be able to extinguish it. And may it be so!

And all God’s people say,

Amen!


Full of Emotions

December 7, 2012

This past week has been filled with a variety of emotions.  I started my new call as the pastor of First-Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church and I have been so grateful to be able to do so.  They are an energetic and faithful congregation.  They have embraced me and my family in ways I haven’t experienced in a while.  It has been both exciting and overwhelming to transition into this new season in my life.

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At the same time, my little girl turned 2 years old this week.  I cannot believe that daddy’s little girl is 2 already and she mimics her brother so well.  She has her own distinctive personality and she in many ways has the independence of her mother!  And I believe that to be a good thing.  She is beautiful and amazing and she is my little girl!  Seriously, I want to know where the time has gone! She is two already??  Sheesh!

This time has also been filled with great sadness.  As excited as we are to move to Indianapolis, we grieve leaving the Chicagoland area that has been home to us for the last 14 years.  Our son has grieved this change but has also endured.  I also discovered that a dear friend from seminary is nearing the end of her battle with cancer and is moving into the eternal light of God.  This news has saddened me more than words can explain (though I am trying to explain them at this time).

Dina was a dear friend I made in seminary. She was a bubbly, feisty, and independent personality who was an integral part of my life.  She was one of the folks who stood up in my wedding and was helped me, well… me.  Dina is a person that God’s light shined through constantly.  Her smile, laughter, and presence were amazing.  She has touched so many people and I am so grateful that she was my friend.

Through this whole experience, I find myself reflecting on what matters most in life.  So often, we focus on what a person has accomplished.  I am discovering for myself that I do not want to be known by what I accomplish, but rather by who I am.  I want my being, my essence to be what people speak about, not the things that I have done.  Throughout this latest transition, I long not for accomplishment, but a sense of peace of fulling being me.  I want to be a father who encourages and supports my children rather than my need to control them.  I dream of being a partner to my wife, fully present and journeying together on this road we travel.  I long to be free of my fears and live more fully into my hopes and dreams.  These thoughts are all spurned by my dear friend who has struggled with a horrible disease and is now (I pray) passing into God’s light with joy and peace.

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This is my friend Dina on the left with Phil and a very young me.  Thank you for how you have inspired me over the years.  Thank you for how you encourage me still.  I love you and I am so grateful you have been a part of my life.  


Fireflies

June 23, 2011


When I was younger, I loved running at night during the spring and summer. For one, it was always cooler. And secondly, there was a stillness to the sun dipping below they horizon and darkness covering the land. I was often able to run alone without the distraction of other people (even though I had to wear as much reflective gear as possible). Just my walkman playing cool 80’s jams like Michael Jackson or Depeche Mode leading me through my runs through the campus sidewalks of MSU. I still remember singing “people are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully!” What a great song and also my first ever cassette album!

But there was another reason that I loved running at night. Fireflies. Yep, those little bugs whose rear ends light up were amazing to see and follow. I remember evenings where it felt as if those little bugs I used to trap in an old used strawberry jam jar were lighting my path and showing me where I needed to go. They were amazing and miraculous all at the same time. As I ran, these little creatures would light my way and dazzle the night with glints of beautiful light.

I was reminded of these memories tonight as I ran after putting my lovely children to sleep. I ran listening to the music of Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, The Script, and David Bowie. All the while, I saw a few dancing fireflies lighting my way and dazzling the darkening day with radiant streams of dancing light. It made me smile and I found myself giggling with joy for my life.

I think all of us have firefly moments where the presence of God reminds us that who we are and the creation we share is enough. There is just a little light that gives us a glimpse of our participation in God’s Kindom here. I was reminded by a few of those firefly moments today. I was reminded by the hugs and laughter of my son who was battling a fever today, but was so grateful to be cared for by his mom and dad. I was reminded of the transformative power of God as I saw members of my church working on their hands and knees to package baby, hygiene, and clean-up bucket kits to be used by people displaced by the storms that have hit our world. I was reminded by the smile of my daughter as I rocked her to sleep how deep God’s love is for all of creation and how deep my love for her dwelled. And I was reminded of how loved I am when my wife kissed and hugged me tonight before our family gathered around our dinner table to break bread and give thanks to God.

So as I write this post, I am reminded that those glimpses of God’s mysterious presence is never far from us. Those glimpses are not only there for our comfort, but a calling to continue the work of being co-creators with God of a world where love truly conquers hate, that justice is sought for all, and care for all of creation is lived into. But until these prayers come true, until I grow and learn how to live into this calling for myself, I continue to look for fireflies to light my way.


Running Again

June 22, 2011

So, I’ve started running again. Thanks be to the heavens. I run to relieve stress. I run to get my bearings and get rid of my anxious energy. I run because there is a part of me that loves feeling the pavement under my feet. I also run because I love gadgets and as an owner of an iphone, I wanted to try out the Nike+GPS app. Yep, I started running again because I wanted to experience how well an app worked on my phone (I am a geek).

I just used this app for my last two runs and I have to say that so far, the readings are accurate and helpful. This app tells me when I have run a mile and lets me know what my average per mile is. So far, it has been encouraging to use this. Each time I start out for a run, I can make the app cheer for me as a way of encouraging me. And I need that encouragement.

When I run, I feel better about myself and my whole approach to life looks different. I truly am grateful for that. With that said, I need to go to sleep so that tomorrow, I can get up early and get a run before I head to work. Hopefully, the app will tell me that I have run 4.5 miles and averaged 9:45 per mile. Happy running to me!


The End of Perfection!

June 22, 2011

I don’t remember the last time I blogged. It as been way too long and to be quite honest, not a top priority. It feels like my top priority has been trying to survive the nights with little sleep and long commute to work. But there is also another stirring in my soul, one that is moving deeper within me and to a certain degree, offering some grace into my life. I am working on releasing my perfectionism.

I have had a perfectionistic streak forI don’t know how long. It is something I have struggled with throughout my lifetime. It is a little voice that reminds me every time I write a sermon or even try to write a blog post that tells that whatever I am working on is somehow never good enough. It stops me from writing, creativity, and self-expression. Maybe the greatest harm it does is this stops me from truly offering my gifts fully.

In an effort to work through this, I have been trying to write more frequently and to journal my more innermost thoughts without editing. Yep, I still edit my journal entries. I am also working on allowing myself to be feel everything and not place a value on those feelings. This last one is very hard to do and I find that my judgements and self-criticism shines through in my evaluations of my feelings. Often, I hear myself saying, “well that is just dumb” or “how can you feel that?”

Obviously, I am not the most gentle with myself and I am growing to accept me more fully. With this acceptance comes a larger ability to be able to laugh at myself and that is always good. Lately, even though I am more tired and less energetic, I am appreciating my life more. When I see my children, I find more joy in being able to be with them. When I am in my office working or journeying with members of my community, my heart feels appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives in ways many people never get the chance.

I remember an interview that Yo-Yo Ma gave the Chicago Tribune several years back. The reporter asked how he could perform in front of so many people without seeming nervous. His response are words that encourage me on my journey today. He simply said, “When I play, I am not performing, but rather I am offering my gift to the audience. All I can do is to offer my gift to the best of my ability.”

And so I move toward that place where I offer my gifts completely and graciously. It is a journey that I continue to take one step and one day at a time. And right now, I am just grateful for the journey.


Ebb and Flow

March 29, 2011

I have been unusually tired, cranky, and ornery these last few days.  I often wonder if the joy of living has been sucked out of me!  I know that this sound harsh, but this is how I feel.  Lacking patience, compassion, and grace, my first mode of response to stressful and anxiety provoking situations has been anger.  Angry, biting words come spewing from my mouth in an attempt to destroy and annihilate these emotions that bubble inside.  It is a dangerous place to be.  Feeling fragile and vulnerable, I dive deeper into my own despair and try to hide away from the world.  Time and time again, these emotions come out with vengeful words towards my children, my spouse, and especially myself.  “You’re and idiot,” I say.  “Could you be anymore forgetful,” I hear myself whisper.  “Why are you even here,” I mutter under my breath.

All of this triggered because life feels overwhelming.  There is not enough time to get everything done.  I can’t complete my to do lists at work.  I can’t find time or the energy to take care of the ordinary tasks of cleaning and organizing at home.  Self-care and artistic expression are things that have flown by the wayside.  In its space are the daily tasks of cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, work, parenting, and grocery shopping.  What makes all of this even more difficult is that my 2 1/2 year old son has completely regressed with the birth of our daughter.  He is defiant, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, and his favorite word has turned into no.  Everyday it feels like I battle him and he is winning the battle.  Mornings turn into shouting matches, dinners turn into battle of wills, and bed time turns into a whining dervish of screams from me and my son.

This is not who I want to be.  This is not how I want to parent.  My resources to cope feel limited and all I want to get away from it all.  As I sit in my office and write, I am praying for perseverance and for greater patience.  I am praying for insight into why I am so angry and the wisdom to work through it all.  And through it all, I am praying for the grace to go with the ebb and flow of life.

I am not the only person or parent who has had to endure seasons of change and trial.  Yet, I feel completely alone.  Just writing that last sentence makes feel idiotic because I know I am not alone.  I know I have a partner throughout life who travels this long road with me.  She reminds me of the type of parent I want to be and of who I am.  I am grateful for her presence in my life that helps to keep me grounded.  Oh the stuff she has to deal with.

Okay perfectionist, time move on from feeling like you have to great everything.  Angry inner voice, I’m tired of you singing in my soul.  It is time for a little joy, peace, and celebration to inhabit my being.  This is what I desire for myself.

As I finish writing, I found a prayer from Henri Nouwen that I prayed myself this morning.  It grounded me in a way that prayer hasn’t in a long time.  I wanted to share that with you.  I hope that this prayer will help you through the ebbs and flows of your life.

Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent Van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea”.  You are the sea.  Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same.  Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover.  Our of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back.  There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.

My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love.  To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.

O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea.

May It Be So.