Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Reviews

I've finished a few books over the summer. Here are some brief reviews.

The Firm by John Grisham
This is a typical John Grisham book. A lawyer gets mixed up in a conspiracy that is bigger than he expected. The drama and suspense build to a massive climax that works out exactly like you would hope - almost. It's a little creepy, but that also makes it intriguing. I like John Grisham for a good fun read, but on my 6th or so Grisham book, his style is becoming fairly predictable. Only 3j's this time: jjj.

Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim
This autobiography, by a Korean-American adoptee, is alternatingly haunting and informative. I am enjoying reading books about Korea these days, and the beginning of this book gives us a good look into Korean village life in the 60s. After a brief early childhood with a loving single mother, Elizabeth Kim is launched into one hellish situation after another. This is the story of her hells and her recovery process as a young adult who again lives as a single mom. It is terrible and beautiful. I highly recommend it: JJJJJ.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck
This is my second book by Steinbeck. I also read Of Mice and Men. I'm starting to think that, although Steinbeck is an excellent writer, he's not my kind of writer. Both books were very well written, but very sad. The Pearl is about how a young family's fortunes are deeply changed when the man finds a huge and perfect pearl. It is a story of poverty and injustice and fatalism. I am such an optimist that this story left a bitter taste in my mouth. But, alas, perhaps that was the intent. All in all: jjj.

The Long Season of Rain by Helen Kim
This is a short (fictional?) memoir by Korean-American Helen Kim, of a few months of her family history. Her family became the foster home for an orphan who lost his family in a mudslide. The drama that unfolds reveals much about traditional Korean marriages, traditional Korean families, and traditional prejudices toward orphans in Korea. I think it is intended as a youth novel, but I didn't find it childish. I really enjoyed it, but it lacks the sophistication for a full 5 J's: jjjj.

Sex God by Rob Bell
Rob Bell's second book is good, but not phenomenal. Here he is exploring the connections between sexuality and spirituality. He takes the questionable stand that everything is sexual because everything that involves connecting with others is inherently sexual. I think this is stretching the point a bit too far, but I really appreciate his wonderful explanation of the sexual/marriage based images that permeate the Bible's description of God's relationship with humanity. I'm sure I will use this book when I'm working on a theology of sexuality for the fall sermon series on sex. All in all, very good: jjjj.

Love Wins

These videos are a description of Love Wins, a ministry to people at strip clubs, led by some of my friends at Trinity Family Church of the Nazarene in Gardner, Kansas, USA. Check them out.

Also, check out the Love Wins posts on Donnie Miller's blog. He's the pastor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

People Who Are Changing the World

Professor who is engineering low-tech solutions to big problems for people living in poverty.

Inventor who created a low cost, portable, highly efficient water-filter.

I just sent out an email to a few of our church leaders exploring the possibility of including videos like these (lots more are available at and from other organizations) as monthly HOPE segments in our church. Sometimes, the problems of our world are so big that they are overwhelming. We lose hope that we can actually cause change. Maybe videos like this can help us regain hope - and with hope action.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Big Small Can Be

I just ran across a very cool song. The band is 1000 Generations, and Relevant Magazine wrote a glowing review of the down-to-earth character of its members. You can listen to the song at their myspace site. I'm sure this will make it into one of my sermons sometime soon - maybe in the upcoming vision series. This sounds like a great example of global change through local action. This song reminds me of Mother Theresa's words: "If you can't feed 100 children, feed one."

Here are the lyrics:
My hands cannot hold the world,
But they can help someone in need,
And my cash could never end hunger,
But it will help someone to eat.

It may seem insignificant but lately,
I think sometimes we forget…

Just how big small can be,
it doesn’t have to be, all or nothing.
How big does small have to be,
for us to do something?
And find how big small can be

A fire starts with a single flame,
It’s not hard to see its attribution.
A storm starts with just a drop of rain,
And it only takes one, one man to start a revolution!

So if it seems insignificant then maybe,
It’s just that we are prone to forget…

What if one person changes one person,
Is that worth the time?
What if one difference makes all the difference
And we start to find…

Friday, August 14, 2009

Adoption Update

We may have found a small hole in the brick wall between us and adoption. This summer we met with an adoption agency that is willing to work with us. The director thinks that we can work with a social worker licensed here in Korea (since this is our place of residence) and just get her credentials officially translated. If this works out, we will be able to adopt an American child once a birth mother chooses us.
Step 1: Get a Korean social worker to redo our home study.
Step 2: Get the US government to approve this is a legit home study for adopting a child from the US.
Step 3: Complete a "family book" which the adoption agency will show to birth mothers.
Step 4: Hopefully, a birth mother chooses us to adopt her child (still in the womb).
Step 5: When the child is born and after the two day waiting period, we make a sudden and urgent flight to the US to welcome our new baby into our family.
Step 6: We try to complete the official adoption paperwork as soon as possible, so that we can get a passport for the baby as soon as possible, so that we can return to Korea as soon as possible. We have no idea how long this will actually take.

Imitation (Ephesians 5:1-21)

(August 16, 2009 - KNU International English Church)

Some people say, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” In other words, if someone imitates you they are paying you a high compliment.

I guess I should feel pretty flattered, then. Sometimes, Emma tries very hard to be just like me. Sometimes, when we're sitting together reading a book, I'll notice that she has her legs crossed just like I do. Sometimes, I am shocked to hear her say the same words I say. (Usually, they are good words. But most parents know that they have to be really careful what they say around their kids because those kids are sure to say the same things later on!) Sometimes, Emma even gets dressed up in my clothes. [[picture]]

And she even learns quickly when we are wrestling and play boxing. [[video]]

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Imitation is also the highest form of worship. God has made us to be like him, and it pleases him when we are. Let's read Ephesians 5:1-21.

Imitating God – living like God – is best thing we can possibly do. If we follow through the passage, imitating God sounds pretty good:

  • Live a life full of love” (5:2).

  • Be thankful (5:5).

  • Live as people of light” (5:8). Be radiant!

  • Be “good and right and true” (5:9).

  • Be wise (5:16).

  • Make the most of your opportunities and time (5:17).

  • Sing together and make music from your hearts (5:19). Go to Nore Bangs!

  • Tell God, “Thank you,” all the time (5:20).

  • Live together with respect and mutual submission (5:21).

I think we would all agree that this is a beautiful way to live.

But it is also difficult. As beautiful as the God-life is, it is still difficult to actually live it in our day to day lives.

To continue reading this post, click here.


Strippers for Jesus (Ephesians 4:15 - 5:2)

(August 9, 2009 - KNU International English Church)
About five years ago, some of my friends started a new church in Gardner, Kansas. Gardner is a small but growing suburb in the center of the USA. Trinity Family Church is a lot like our church. They are progressive Nazarenes. They have a good band, and people wear casual clothes. They have a young pastor and mixed group of people. In many ways, they are very similar to us.

But Trinity Family has one thing we don’t have – a ministry to strippers. Yes, I said strippers – women who get paid to take off their clothes.

A few years ago, some of the women at Trinity Family felt called to love and to serve people who were never going to walk through the church door on their own, people who normally don’t feel comfortable or welcomed in church. Their attention focused on the two strip clubs in town, and they started a ministry called Love Wins.

In 2007, some of the church ladies went to the strip clubs with homemade cookies and gift bags. This scene was repeated again and again. The church ladies brought Christmas gift bags, chocolate covered strawberries, lotions, all kinds off stuff – again and again. They didn’t ask them to come to church. They didn’t tell the people at the strip club that they were a bunch of sinners on the fast track to hell. They just gave them gifts and talked to them and loved them.

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yesterday, I sent in our last check for our student loans. Once that check is received and processed, we will officially be debt free! After four degrees and over $50,000 in loans between the two of us, this is a VERY good feeling!