Conferencing Tuxedo

Photo on 2-23-15 at 10.55 AMHere is a a preview of how I will be dressed for my next video conference call. Why so debonair? Why not? I have a job with an important, world-wide ministry. In fact, I’m going to suggest that tuxedos become standard issue at seeJesus.

What’s that you ask? No, there’s nothing fishy going on. What do you mean my tux looks a little “flat”? I like my suits pressed…heh, heh. It’s a little too uniform? No, it’s not a uniform!…It’s um…a tuxedo…a tuxedo conferencing bib. Yes, it is!

 

Photo on 2-23-15 at 10.59 AM #2OK, not quite all is what it seems. After reading my last blog post, my mom happen to see this bib online and just had to get it for me. It is literally an adult bib for mealtime made of water-resistant, terrycloth but she thought it would serve me well as my new conferencing bib. I will probably need to use it in both ways.

When I got dressed this morning in my bib, my children laughed and were wondering where I was going. I told them “to work, where else?” Wow! Just one more perk of working at home in a virtual world. Thanks Mom!

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Conferencing Bib

With my new job at seeJesus, I have been doing more and more phone and video conferencing. Some friends (all guys) have joked that I just need a “conferencing bib” for online meetings and the rest of the day I can look any way I want. Thanks be to God for giving me a wife who insists that I continue to dress and smell decently while working in my “corner office” partly for the sake of simple decency and partly for the sake of the others who still “work” downstairs in the same “building.” If it wasn’t for Sonia, I’d probably end up like John Clayton at ESPN.

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Learning From Sam

My wife’s brother, Sam, has a cognitive delay. I have written about his specific limitations in the past, so I won’t revisit the details. An over-simplified description (not diagnosis) is that Sam is high functioning in many ways but has a simplified perspective of the world similar to that of a young teenager.

I don’t see Sam often as we’re separated by 400 miles of California coastland but when I do, we often go out for coffee or breakfast to “socialize” (as he likes to put it ). Sam is very open about his struggles, fears, likes and dislikes. In many ways, I considered our times together as an informal opportunity for me to disciple him but over the past eighteen years, I realize more often the roles are reversed. In Sam’s child-like faith, he disciples me.

Pastor Lee Jong-rak of the famed “Drop Box” says,

“Disabled children teach many people, change many people, and help people reflect upon themselves, which is why they are the educators of society.”

Sam is not a child but he is disabled and he is an educator. He teaches me to slow down. He teaches me core theology. He teaches me to be child-like that I might inherit the kingdom. He teaches me to worship.

Sam

First time I met Sam…oh, so long ago

Yesterday, Sam tutored me in the car while we were driving to pick up his brother from the airport. He was feeling really bad about a reoccurring sin that he currently wrestles with. He said, “I don’t know why I keep doing that (sin)! I don’t want to do it but I do.” Sam has read the entire Bible many times so Romans 7 could have been flowing from his heart or his memory. Either way, I could identify with his frustration with the old self. Sam wondered out loud if his sins were really forgiven even though he does the same thing over and over again. I reminded him that grace, not works, saves and secures his salvation. That was the limited extent of my discipling. Then we subtly switched roles.

Sam: “I think maybe because I’m slow, I can’t understand why God would keep forgiving me over and over and over again.”
Me: “It’s not because you’re slow, I think most Christians, including me, have a hard time believing that.”

Sam: “Yeah, a normal person wouldn’t do that. If I hurt another person over and over again, he would stop forgiving me a long time ago.”
Me: “You’re right.”

Sam: “That’s just craa…”
Me: “Crazy? That’s crazy?”

Sam: “Yeah, that’s just crazy love!” (no need to read Francis Chan, Sam already gets it)
Me: “It is! Do you realize when we were singing ‘Amazing Grace’ yesterday, that’s what we were singing about?”

Sam: “Yeah…”(looking off into the distance)

Sam looked pleased. It was the satisfied look of child-like wonder. Like rediscovering the vibrant beauty of a rainbow following a few rainy days. His response moved me to pause, look up in the sky and worship as well.

Yesterday, Sam taught me that God’s grace IS truly amazing. That His forgiveness is NOT normal. And that His love is just PLAIN crazy! As he did so, I discovered that a mini-van on the 101 fwy could be sacred space if I would just allow God to disciple me through the faith of my brother-in-law. Too often, I am too busy and too informed to behold God’s greatness in everyday life. I thank the Father that He sent Sam into my life to gently shame my shallow wisdom that I might rediscover the beauty of His grace. I can’t wait to see what Sam will teach me next…

(By the way, Sam gave me full permission to share our conversation. Thanks, Sam!)

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The Corner Office

I never had aspirations to make it big in the corporate world, but even I know the underlying goal is to eventually get the corner office with the windows on the top floor of the building. Today, I have achieved that goal! Behold, the glorious seeJesus office on the West Coast! (cue the triumphant trumpets)

Corner_Office

Thanks to my wife and daughter who made today festive!

Yes, it’s not in a skyscraper but it is on the top floor of my building. Nevermind that it’s on the second floor and happens to share the same address as my primary residence. Yes, it’s not a space used exclusively for office purposes. It’s more of a “multi-purpose” room. What’s that in the bottom left corner of the picture? Part of a bed frame? So, maybe it is. OK, not quite what corporate America had in mind but I am happy with my new office. It’s easy to get to. There’s no traffic, unless there’s the occasional dirty laundry on the floor that I have to step over.

It has everything I need to get started: a laptop, a printer/copier, a phone, a calendar and even paper clips! But it’s not just what’s in my office that’s significant but what my office represents that is. It represents a new ministry assignment. I have completely transitioned from serving as Pastor of Lifesong Community Church to serving as Director of seeJesus on the West Coast and East Asia. It represents a new stage in life. I am now working out of the home as a missionary to the West and the East. It represents a new challenge. I am doing something I’ve never done before and fundraising 100% of what will be needed for my position.

Twenty years ago, even four months ago, if you would have asked me what I would be doing when I hit “midlife,” I would n-e-v-e-r have told you this. I sometimes tell people if you gave me one hundred sheets of paper and told me to write one hundred different creative story lines about how my life would unfold, I guarantee you that I would never be able to write the one that actually happened. God writes great stories. Ones that have personal depth, unexpected suspense, rich irony, sovereign purpose. Need we look further than the story of Jesus? Let alone the entire redemptive narrative of the Bible?

As I look back on my life, in some ways, I see how God had been preparing me for such a time and assignment like this. In other ways, I am still a little shell-shocked by this change. Either way, I am confident that His call is clear and His purpose is glorious. I know the story is still being revealed and I am excited to see what He will write next. I don’t know what the next chapter will entail but I know it starts in the corner office on the top floor of the building that overlooks my back yard. What more could I ask for?

Corner_Office2

 

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Dear Amanda

Brilliant proposal video made by a great guy for a special girl. Congratulations Brian and Amanda! Check out the rest of the story here.

Dear Amanda from Arbella Studios on Vimeo.

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The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Tsukemen

On the Food Network, there is a show called, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Last Friday, I ate coconut fried chicken at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica which according to Iron Chef, Michael Symon, is the best thing he ever ate. Maybe the expectations were too high or maybe I was there on an off-day but the chicken left my culinary hopes lingering. I have to admit, the chicken was good but certainly not the best I ever ate.

Later that same evening, Sonia and I got a late night snack after the Drop Box premier with my brother and sister-in-law. They know the area very well and are quite the foodies so we headed over to Seoul Sausage in West LA only to discover it was already closed. Fortunately, a few doors down is a little place called Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle. Long name for a ramen house. But not just any ramen house. One of THEE best places in LA for ramen according to most food critics. Apparently, people sometimes wait over an hour to get a chance to eat their speciality. What is it?

TSUKEMEN.

Tsukemen

Tsukemen is the modern day version of a traditional Japanese staple. A sort of deconstructed ramen. The noodles are thicker and stiffer than traditional ramen and are kept separate from the broth until you choose to dip them in the heavenly demi-glaze-like broth of pork goodness. Practically, it keeps the noodles from getting overcooked so you can slow down to savor the heavenly combination of the rich pork fat flavor (over 60 hrs of stewing), the al dente noodles and the bright juice of fresh lime to achieve that elusive “umami” balance of flavor. I ordered the works which came with a soft boiled egg and tender, thick slices of Japanese-style char siu (think dark, soy-flavored pork belly rather than bright red pork shoulder). There was little room for the two bowls that made up my order because tons of condiments crowded the table. I had no idea what they were for, but I confidently added them all as if I knew what I was doing. Freshly ground sesame seeds, dark pickled tsukemono, crushed red pepper, pickled ginger and something called “tonkotsu sauce,” a tart, spicy flavored oil. Put it all together and it was truly the best thing I ever ate

…that is until I eat the next “best thing I ever ate.”

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The Drop Box

Last night I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview premier of the Drop Box; a film by director, Brian Ivie. It is a moving story about a pastor in Korea who literally built a metal box on the side of a building in order to receive unwanted babies. So many of the movie’s themes are dear to my heart: the sanctity of life, adoption, special needs. While it’s a film about a remarkable man, more importantly it is about living out the heart of a remarkable God who loves.

DSC00041Pastor Lee was at the premier and was the first to give glory to God for all that He has done. And while I whole-heartedly agree it is God’s story, I love the fact that God chose to raise up a very ordinary but faithful man to do it.

The even greater story is not the one told in the film but instead the one that developed in the making of the film. Brian Ivie set out to make a movie about a perfectionist, Korean culture’s challenge to address a shamefully, hidden problem. But instead, he discovered the heart of the Father and was adopted by Him through faith in Christ. I had the privilege of getting to know Brian when he shared at our church on Orphan Sunday last year. He is the real deal and God is using him mightily for His glory.

The Drop Box will be released in over seven hundred theaters nationwide on March 3,4, and 5. You can pre-order tickets or even buy out a theater for your whole church. It’s a well-made film worth seeing for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Check out this link for all the info.

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Family Farewell

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On April 16, 2006, I joined these people to plant a new church in Chino Hills. Yesterday, nearly nine years later, I worshipped with them for the last time while serving as their lead pastor. The day was inevitable but definitely not an enviable one. It left me emotionally and physically exhausted.

How do you suddenly say goodbye to people who have been such an integral and intimate part of your life for so long? People who partnered with me shoulder-to-shoulder in ministry. People who cried on my shoulder and allowed me to cry on theirs when life’s pain was unbearable. People whom my children call “auntie” and “uncle” although very few of them are actually blood-related.

In fact, when we brought Eden home from China, we had a hard time explaining the difference between the new “aunties” and “uncles” that she celebrated the holidays with and the dozens of people at church whom we celebrated the Lord’s supper with. After a while, we stopped trying. Partly, because it required further language acquisition, but mainly because we wondered if it really mattered at all, anyway. After all, these people are not just fellow church members. They’re family. And that’s why it hurts to know our journey with them is over.

Yesterday, I was naive enough in my male pride to think I wouldn’t shed a tear. My wife wisely made me put tissue in my pocket before departing the house. I should have stuffed some in my back pockets too. When I arrived, the first person I bumped into is the eldest and one of the godliest men in our church. He began to express his appreciation of me, how much he was going to miss me and how God was going to use me in mighty ways in the near future. He was blessing me. How did I respond in return? With a quivering lip and teary eyes. I cried during my sermon. I cried during the program they had in our honor after the best potluck lunch I have ever consumed. Why all the tears? Because Lifesong is our family.

Today, as I try to get over the emotional hangover, I hold onto the truth that they’ll always be family. Yes, our relationships are going to be different but I also know they do not end. Bloodlines in the family of God run eternal. God sent His Son to redeem us in order to adopt us. In other words, the Father wanted us to be family forever. The sweet joy of Heaven is by far God Himself but the icing is the family that he gathers around Him. At times, when our paths cross and even join while pursuing God’s mission this side of Heaven, we get a small taste of that delight and we don’t want it to end. True fellowship is like that. It’s a shadowed taste of Heavenly koinonia promised in and through the Son. So when it does end, we are left longing for more. That’s the way it should be.

Thank you, Lifesong, for being family to me and my household over these past nine years. My heart for you echoes the words of the apostle Paul in his affection for the Philippians, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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Adoption Update

Update: My friends, Gavin and Lorraine are in China now! As they pick up Joylyn, please pray for their travel, the family transitions and bonding and God’s grace to abound in everything. 

Bring Joylyn Home

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These are my friends, Gavin and Lorraine Kajikawa and their daughter, Brielle. After seven long years, they have been matched with their daughter, Joylyn and are preparing to adopt her from China in the very near future.

Adopt_Product_Shot_largeThe cost of adoption is steep. I can personally attest to that. But the Father loves to provide lavishly for the things near His heart. I can personally attest to that as well. One of the ways He provides is through the giving of His people. One of the ways that you can help is by purchasing a T-shirt. But not just any T-shirt. A cool-looking T-shirt with a great message on the front designed and produced by Zoe Clothing Co.

This is a rare fundraiser in which 100% of the donation for the T-shirt will go directly to helping the Kajikawas bring Joylyn home. This has been made possible by the owner of Zoe, a kingdom-minded friend of mine as well. If you would like to read more about the Kajikawas’ story and purchase a T-shirt (or two or three), you can click on their photo above.

What better way to celebrate the Father’s love in Christ’s resurrection this weekend than to support those who are seeking to be like Him through adoption!

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