Eugene Cho

listening…

Let’s just say that last week was one of the more crazier weeks.  Without even really trying, it seemed like I was upsetting a lot of people.

It began with an intense but good conversation with some representatives of the Republican party.  Long story so I won’t even go into it.  But let me just say this:  I’m neither Republican or Democrat…but Go Obama.  [Great, I’ve upset more people].

Then, of course, the email exchange with Dan Savage leading to the first installment of the “gay conversation.”   It’s tough hearing your name associated with bigotry and hatred but it’s nothing compared to the pain, prejudice, and hatred that many in the gay community have faced.  We need to listen to the stories of the gay community. 

Through that post, I’ve also somehow managed to irk the fundamental Christians who question my hermeneutics, the liberals for my lack of theological acumen, couple Mars Hillians for what they perceive to be an insult to them and their pastor by my comments of not wanting to be compared to Mars Hill.  [C’mon folks:  you guys are major leaguers. I’m just a Single A minor leaguer with a .237 average.  Don’t worry about folks like me].  And to top it off, I’ve managed to annoy my wife for checking the blog on my smartphone during our quasi vacation time.  Can I tick off any more people within a week?    

I wonder  if people even know what these “labels” really mean anymore.  I don’t but I keep using them.  And I wonder if people even know what others that don’t think like them actually think.  This is why I’ve chosen to take the position of just listening in “the gay conversation.”  My heard and head can easily be hardened by data and I’ve been convicted these past few days that while I do have a position that I’ve wrestled with for many years, I can easily lack compassion. 

Many have asked on the blog and privately emailed, “Why do you believe in what you believe?”  These are two accesible documents online that give a glimpse.  I don’t agree with everything but they’ll likely be good reads for folks.

The hill that I’m willing to die for is NOT this issue.  My position is not posted publicly anywhere because this isn’t the question I ask.  The question or issue that’s relevant to me is very simple:  “Jesus.”  Everything is peripheral as far as I’m concerned but because people want to know and [for some] need to know, the whole “welcome but not affirming” statement has come out in public.

I know many scoff at that phrase and rightfully so.   But here’s my question, if a person holds this theological view and genuinely seeks to care, advocate, and extend the grace and love of Christ – what can that person say? 

 Seriously, the kids are waiting for me at the beach.  I need to go…

Filed under: christianity, Jesus, justice

34 Responses

  1. david says:

    as you’ve already mentioned, maybe it’s fine to say nothing at all and not play into the hands of those who offer the litmus-test question. the third way proposition can work if you’re genuine- just as people who don’t identify with either side of our polarized political spectrum can identify as independent or non-partisan, i think we can help to defuse the mudslinging if we simply acknowledge that there are enough questions and ambiguity on the issue to merit some openness and dialogue instead of positioning and then debating.

    i love how jesus, often when cornered by the religious establishment, responds with more questions or parables. they tried to trap him into controversial issues so that his views would polarize his followers, but he never plays their game. he tells a story, he asks a harder question, and he makes his point by allowing the listeners to understand his meaning. “whoever has ears, let them hear…”

  2. Fnarf says:

    The Stanton Jones article is troubling, because he has backed himself into a corner regarding scientific evidence. The fact that his very first recommendation for further study is Exodus International, a wholly discredited “Gay Recovery” company, whose own founders now admit that their thesis (homosexuals can be made straight) is wrong, and their methods and practices deeply harmful, casts a poor light on his arguments.

    He is also a strict fundamentalist; if it says so in the Bible, it’s the word of God, and it’s true. But there are many things in the Bible that we know to be untrue in the literal sense. They can only be understood as parables. I have not read the book he is responding to, so I can’t speak to his analysis of it, but on their face his arguments are quite unconvincing.

  3. jklam says:

    personally, i think the posture of simply “listening” in the gay conversation is the best one to take. naturally that’ll disappoint fundamentalist and liberals of every religious persuasion who would love to see an addition to their “team,” but as dave mentions, these polarizing teams are part of the problem, not the solution. i think of the most important thing a person of faith can learn to say is, “i don’t know.”

  4. Jennifer says:

    Fnarf,

    Hello!

    I actually really like how Exodus is nuancing their position right now.

    Here’s a quick quote from the recent LA Times article with Alan Chambers (Exodus’ Director), “With years of therapy, Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men; he’s a husband and a father, and he identifies as straight. But lately, he’s come to resent the term “ex-gay”: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” Chambers said.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-exgay18jun18,1,296931.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&ctrack=2&cset=true

    I like that because it seems to represent a much more real-world approach to the Christian path to overcoming *anything*. There is tons of stuff in my life that I’ve begged the Lord to take away, and its still there. I still struggle. I still walk in the tension of being in relationship with a God who could poof it all away, but doesn’t. If someone feels called to turn away from homosexuality, why would their experience be any different than my experience of turning from the things the Lord calls me to turn from. The I respect the people I know who are living a straight life, even though they have occasional same-sex desires because they are pretty open about that, and are not pretending the issues are hammered down and totally in the past – as if they should expect some kind of miracle healing when most Christians have to struggle through issues day by day.

  5. Tracy says:

    Pastor E, with all due respect and as a wannabe wife and mother…please enjoy your sabbatical with your family. This issue will be an issue when you get me…trust me.

    SMILES.

  6. Blake says:

    I’m with Tracy on this. As much as I admire your devotion to your blog, P.E., take a break. We’ll be here to wax eloquent with you when you return.😉

  7. Blake says:

    Btw, I can’t remember the last time I upset that many people in a month, much less a day. You’ve got mad skills, P.E. Can I take lessons? Can I please?😉

  8. Tracy says:

    Correction: “This issue will be an issue when you get BACK…trust me.”

  9. Fnarf says:

    Jennifer,

    See my post on the other thread. Exodus International is a serious stumbling block. Most gay people don’t think they need to be “healed”, because they don’t think they’re sick. It’s a bit of a sore subject.

  10. e cho says:

    Fnarf,
    Thanks for your thoughts as usual. And no, you haven’t said anything offensive.

    As I wrote earlier, there’s some things that I disagree with or things that I just don’t know enough about. The thing that you commented about would be one of that. I don’t know anything about E I. As I’ve shared here and at the SLOG, I have no motivation to change a gay person. I’ve been slammed by evangelicals for saying that publicly but I don’t. Mainly, because that’s not my job. And the idea of having a “ministry” dedicated to changing homosexuals weird me out as well. But, I don’t dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit in the live of a person over the course of their entire lifetime and beyond. My job as a pastor is to love, encourage, teach, and aid in the work of reconcilation, etc. My personal ministry fellowship can be summed up by the words that help guide our church ministry: Soul. Community. Compassion and Justice. and Global Presence.

    I asked a friend who’s a professor who’s well respected for his fairness in speaking and listening to difficult issues such as this for a list of books that speak to the issue from both sides. I have not read all of these books but share this list – again – as sources to better aid our deeper understanding:

    Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would by Chad Thompson. Best book for lay readers.

    “Out of Order” by Donald Wold. A very good historical book on biblical and ancient world stuff.

    The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert Gagnon. Gagnon is obsessed with this issue, but his book exhaustively examines the evidence in the Bible and all the arguments of the pro-homosexuality viewpoint.

    What God Has Joined Together? – Myers and Scanzoni. Best light that supports homosexuality and gay marriage.

    Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality by John Boswell. Book that has turned the issue upside down.

  11. e cho says:

    hey folks,

    i’m taking advantage of having Tues/Wed off because of 4th of July. it’s not technically my vacation time. the issue is not having internet in my room. i need to go to the lobby. it’s no biggie as i’m able to check in during the kids’ rest time. thanks tough.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Fnarf,

    I responded on the other thread🙂

    I hear your concern about the word “healed”. I never say that a homosexual person needs to be healed, unless that is the language they want to put on themselves – and even in that case, I would think of it as the same type of healing that we all need from past hurts, etc.

  13. JB says:

    Dipping my toe into the water here….

    I kind of think a church should take a position on homosexuality and its fit with Christianity. I just don’t think you can straddle the fence. I agree it should not be an issue that dominates or takes more that its rightful share (very little) of pulpit time.

    But when you think of all those precious kids down there at 10 am learning about Jesus…well, some of those kids will be gay. Time flies and it will be an issue for some before you know it. After many years and experiences I’ve come to believe strongly that homosexuality just is not a choice. It’s not something we can drum out of our kids with good parenting, James Dobson’s brilliant advice on the subject notwithstanding. (sarcasm)

    So what do we want for our kids? I know that if either or both of my kids is/are gay, I want her to know that it won’t devastate us, her mom and dad. We won’t have to go into therapy. She can still have a good life, a happy marriage, and raise a family if that’s what she wants. She won’t be an outcast from her family and, I hope, from most of society. She won’t be viewed as “less than”. She’s not an abomination to the Lord. She’s a whole human being.

    The view our church takes will affect these kids: their acceptance of themselves if they are gay, and of others if not. I can see if you really believe gay sex is a sin, then that’s a big dilemma. I guess it’s like saying you’d accept your child if she was a thief or worse. Because I don’t see it as a sin, I don’t personally have that dilemma.

    But talk to any gay person about the hurt they experienced at the hands of their family, classmates and church, think about the increased incidence of suidcide amond gay teens, and I think you come away realizing that you’ve just got to stake out a position on it, and to me, “Welcoming but not affirming” just isn’t a position.

    Just one mom’s opinion, pe.

    joani

  14. kd nyquist says:

    The “just listening” position is only any good if it evolves into something else, but it is certainly good for the time being. How does a heterosexual Christian find merit to his or her beliefs, whether pro- or anti-, without experiencing or comprehending homosexuality? I want to have a specific response, but I know that the solution may only be good for my brain’s wiring.

    Because of this conversation, I believe that if a gay man or woman came to me with questions, the answer wouldn’t be about what Leviticus or Paul says, but that my response would be an inquiry into their life: how they feel, why they feel, what they think, etc. It isn’t so much about my opinion: I am secure about the fact that I am straight. It isn’t about just their sexuality either. It is about them, including but not limited to their reservations, doubts, hurts, etc. These are things I can more easily understand, things I am more likely to have a strong suggestion about. Things that allow me to look beyond the “gay” label.

    Is there an easy, quick answer? No, even though everyone wants one. But we can listen, and see where that takes us and what we learn from that journey.

  15. e cho says:

    joani:

    thanks for stopping by the pool here. you and your family are valued – by me and the church community.

    i’m sorry that you feel like “welcome but not affirming” or whatever vernacular i am forced to use is not really a position. a few have left the church since quest started because they disagree with my position – either i’m too liberal or too conservative. and i’m certain that couple more will leave the church as a result of the blogpost. already, i’ve received a handful of emails citing their discomfort with my answers. oh well.

    let me give you a firm answer then. in regard to the scenario that you shared about your two beautiful children, i choose…your children. I choose them. i choose their stories. i choose their future. i choose grace.

    you wrote: “So what do we want for our kids? I know that if either or both of my kids is/are gay, I want her to know that it won’t devastate us, her mom and dad. We won’t have to go into therapy. She can still have a good life, a happy marriage, and raise a family if that’s what she wants. She won’t be an outcast from her family and, I hope, from most of society. She won’t be viewed as “less than”. She’s not an abomination to the Lord. She’s a whole human being.”

    you don’t think that we can’t demonstrate those things while still expressing our disagreement? i guess the majority of folks will say no. i choose to say yes. I can love and accept and still share there’s deeper hope in the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. but that’s just me…

  16. JB says:

    Eugene,
    One of the things I love about Quest is that there is no pulpit time spent on how others should live, who’s good and who’s evil, who should be picketed shunned protested and have their rights taken away and which political party has the key to heaven’s gate.

    Very little on specs, more on planks. You encourage us in our spiritual growth and in reaching out with love to the rest of the world. I learn so much about the bible from your sermons, and then you tie the learning in a meaningful way to life and somehow I come out wanting to take action. We aren’t going anywhere. We feel lucky to have found Quest, and the awesome pastors and community there. What a dynamic place!

    We definitely can demonstrate our love and acceptance of our kids while disagreeing with their actions and encouraging them to do better next time, or to change a bad pattern. My concern about homosexuality is that the “action” is sex with a same-sex partner. To “do better” means to give up something very precious about life: a lifetime connection with a deep love (marriage) and the option to build a family–the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done or imagined doing. How can I deny this to them? It is such a big part of being human. It is the very best life has to offer us.

    I could even do this, encourage them to change, if I really believed it was wrong–the intimacy of two committed partners whose parts match rather than complement—but I can’t seem to find the “wrong” in that.

    And that really is “just me”: I know very little about the bible, have only my own life experiences and conscience to reference me, and am wrong about so many things so much of the time you’d think I’d learn not to be so convinced that I am always right!

  17. CK says:

    Jeff @ #3,

    While I appreciate your utopic perspective, the world just doesn’t work that way. When your kids come and ask you a sincere question, you wanna say, “I don’t know.” When someone from your church say, “Will you officiate my marriage,” you gonna say, “I don’t know.” This is why people are drawn to churches that are willing to still take a stance. Why? Because it’s so rare.

  18. jklam says:

    CK – #17

    i can appreciate your desire for a solid stance on the question of sexuality. i wish so badly that we (i) could just make a definitive statement on each controversial issue, and let that be that. but i think the truly utopian perspective is the one that calls a grey world, black and white. it makes sense — we want to know when we are right and wrong, and we want moral clarity. i think i would be drawn to churches that offer blanket black-and-white statements on issues because it offers an escape from an otherwise confusing, morally unclear world. navigating that world demands great reflection, but no such reflection is required when you already know everything. i hafta resist my own temptation to be lazy, engage with these difficult issues at an intellectually honest level, and recognize the very real possibility that i am wrong. to me, this means i need to continue listening and learning from the other.

    in my comment on “the gay conversation” (#226), i quoted a set of questions. they’re hard questions — and in light of those, i resist the polarizing temptation to just “pick a team.” as a christian that wants to love like jesus, i can’t just blithely write off hundreds and hundreds of years of church history, and i refuse to just write off everything i’ve learned from friends, school, and conversations like this.

    my original line in #3 was, the most important thing a person of faith can learn to say is, i don’t know. i still hold to that. there is much we do not know, especially with regards to sexuality, in light of all the new knowledge gained from sociologists, psychologists, etc. that doesn’t mean i cannot engage in the conversation, should a child ask me a question, beyond saying “i don’t know” (as i hope i’ve demonstrated in previous comments and on my own blog), it just means what is already obvious — i’m not god.

  19. Reyes-Chow says:

    As usual, your posts bring out some solid and faithful discourse. I appreciate your faithfulness and pastoral perseverance. Some day we may even meet face-to-face😉

    Another book that I would suggest would be Jack Roger’s “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality.” One of the better books from my side of the big wide gray blurry fence.

    Vacation on my friend!

  20. gar says:

    hey pastor eugene,

    Just wanted to leave a note of encouragement and say that I think the dialogue on the “gay conversation” post has been generally constructive and good. It’s a shame that people on both sides of the fence don’t take the time to listen to what each other are saying, but I think in the weird world of “the blogosphere”, you’ve provided an outlet for people to share, talk, and converse. I hope you can take heart in that and shrug off any nasty e-mails you’ve received… people have a bad habit of taking quick and mean shots at pastors, and the unfortunately, the nature of the internet is such that probably half the people who fire off really critical e-mails wouldn’t have the heart to say it to your face in person.

    Blessings to you and your family during this July 4th weekend.

    shalom,

    -g.

  21. Chris says:

    Thinking, wrote William James, is “what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices”.

    In the most conservative Christians, there seems to be an unconscious, irrational fear that if gay people are affirmed, Christians everywhere will be given permission to cave into their basest instincts. This is akin to fearing that the legality of beer with dinner threatens to turn you into a meth addict.

    Less fearful conservatives simply hesitate to affirm anything other than their own personal ideals, which is something very akin to racism and xenophobia.

    It is sad to see so much solipsism and provincialism in the name of Christ since transcending those traits was such an important part of his ministry.

    Unless you’re a literalist, the scriptural debates are irrelevant. There are biblical scholars on both sides of the debate, and historically, the most egregious sins of the Christian community have been justified by scripture.

    If you genuinely seek to care, advocate, and extend the grace and love of Christ, perhaps you should ask yourself: How does my position accord with the Golden Rule? If the world were primarily homosexual, would I be comfortable with anything less than complete affirmation for my heterosexual family?

  22. Rebecca says:

    I agree that one of the best things about Quest is how we are challenged to work on our own planks and not focus on others’ sins. But I have to disagree that “welcoming not affirming” is not a position. I think that is the whole point of Eugene’s question: can we hold different beliefs and yet live in community? Why do we have to choose a set of beliefs and not allow room for change, growth, but also conviction? As I tolerate another’s position, why can then my position not also be tolerated? I know that the church has traditionally not been a place of tolerance or understanding or love as regards this issue, and for that I am very sorry. But please extend to me the same grace that I extend to you: the grace to have my own set of convictions, knowing that I may be wrong, that I may be right, but ultimately it is not about who is right or wrong. It is about seeking after Christ and living in a spirit of love.

  23. Wayne Park says:

    what? no way, trust me, you’re a big league hitter, .500 in my book and congregation size has nothing to do with it… you can hang with the best of them. You and your church have become something the gang and I can aspire to up here in the HAM.

  24. e cho says:

    wayne: .500? i wish. i can’t hit that curve ball man.

  25. JB says:

    Rebecca,
    good food for thought. thanks.
    joani

  26. JB says:

    Sorry to chew up more space and another post, but my response to Rebecca was not adequate. Yes, I extend that to you and thank you for better illuminating the feeling behind “welcoming but not affirming” for me.

    I love this and totally embrace it: “But please extend to me the same grace that I extend to you: the grace to have my own set of convictions, knowing that I may be wrong, that I may be right, but ultimately it is not about who is right or wrong. It is about seeking after Christ and living in a spirit of love.”

    Beautifully put, Rebecca!

    Joani

  27. DH says:

    Rebecca,

    Similarly, I enjoyed your post. I’d like to believe that friendship is possible – even in the gray areas of life.

  28. elderj says:

    These are difficult issues with no easy answers… or rather the easy answers are thoroughly unsatisfactory. I’ve known folks who have authentically wrestled with their own sexual idenity and attraction. It is no easy thing to watch. Some of them have chosen to cease wrestling — that is to decide that the practice of homosexuality is not sin. Others know it to be sin and indulge anyway, or choose to live celibately. There are others who have managed, by God’s grace, to enjoy substantial freedom from homosexual temptation and practice — though they would not suggest that it is easy or that they are never tempted in that way.

    As pastors and ministry leaders, the hard thing is that we must make some decisions, as you have, because we are called to invite people to live in response to God’s love grace and truth – and that includes things that are many times unpalatable to those who hear; things that may even seem hateful. What saddens me most is that anything less than full endorsement of the the practice of homosexuality is seen as bigoted and hateful, so being “welcoming but not affirming” will never be enough for some.

  29. P. says:

    Bluntly, we have seen the damage that can be done by telling us that homosexuality is sinful. Almost all of us have tortured ourselves for years over that very issue – not just that religion tells us it is sinful, but that society tells us it is wrong. “Coming out of the closet” has as its first step accepting that being homosexual (or bisexual, or transsexual) is something you cannot change. That first step alone makes a huge difference to our sanity, to the health of our souls if you will. Telling us that it is sinful and we should try to change it is telling us to put ourselves back in the closet, to go back to torturing ourselves, to mutilating our souls by cutting off the possibility of love.

    Is it bigotry? I don’t know. But it does harm us when you say it.

  30. Blake says:

    Wonderfully said, Rebecca.🙂

  31. timiekley says:

    Hey man. I am glad that there are some people out there that really care about the main issue – the issue of Jesus. How can we look through the Scriptures and see Jesus sitting with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes and not understand that Jesus cared more about the person rather than the sin that held them captive? Do not get me wrong – Jesus hates sin. It separates our ability to have fellowship with God and, in a lot of ways, puts a ‘monkey wrench’ in our relationships with others.

    The extremes of how one looks at homosexuality is rather daunting of a task. One could be like Fred Phelps: http://www.godhatesfags.com or one can be so ‘accepting’ that one is never confronted with the cross. Both extremes are damaging to the church as a whole. If I was called to stand anywhere on the line of homosexuality, I would most likely stand next to you. The more I personally look at Jesus, the more I see a man who was fully God loving people because no one else cared about them.

    If the greatest commandment in the Bible is: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, The Lord is One. You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. And the other is like it. You must love your neighbor as yourself. These are the greatest commandments.” Then we must take a position that loves others.

    Thank you for your strong post. I am sorry that you have to deal with this other crap. As Kurt Vonnegut would say often, “So it goes.”

    Tim

  32. jazzboring says:

    even though it may have been difficult emotionally for you to experience this blog-rollercoaster, i’m thankful that dan savage raised the issue. i found your church online and have always wished to attend, but i’m always curious about where quest’s leadership stood on this issue of homosexuality. now i know – and i’m curious and hopeful as to how your views might evolve.

    it’s not that i care so much about people’s sexual orientation vis a vis religion, it’s that christian protestant churches are known for being quite judgmental and unaccepting of it. in fact, i know of at least three people who were basically turned away from the church — either not granted a degree or asked to step down from their positions — when they came out or were outed.

    it’s hard for me to imagine the hurt.

    what i like about the story of jesus’ last supper, is that he took the time to wash all of his disciples’ feet, regardless of how depraved one of them was (the one that was going to betray him). he treated them all alike; he gave them all of his bread/body to eat and wine to drink. there was no difference, only love and acceptance.

  33. Sabrina says:

    I went to a meeting for Quest Church and asked a question about homosexuality. It was clear the your church has no clear answer. What you guys don’t see is that any position other than affirming is shutting gays out.

    Even before the meeting started and i was just walking around the place i had this feeling
    like i was unwelcomed there. this phantom weight on my shoulders and
    this uneasiness in my stomach almost telling the rest of my body to be
    ready to flee at any moment.

    it left me feeling drained of energy and unloved. today i woke up
    feeling different than the days before. even though i know it’s only
    one church and there are open and affirming churches and that no
    church is God, it still leaves you feeling hated and walking around
    with that hurts. it’s like a door closing on you just because of
    something that is a part of you, a good part of you, that you should be perfected just like anything else. As a straight person most preach for you to ideally live in a long term, healthy,
    happy,monogamous relationship that helps fill you with joy so that you
    in turn can continue to love thy neighbor, etc., but as a gay
    person you are not allowed to have that aspiration. You are cast into
    the shadows. For some this is too much and they hurt other people
    because they are not allowed to live freely in their own lives. There
    are so many examples in history of repressed homosexuality leading to
    harming children, losing balance in your life, and countless other
    negative effects on you because you are hiding from yourself.

    it sucks cuz i’ve always known churches to be welcoming to me. Now
    that i have grown into a version of me that includes me being THE GAY
    I am automatically turned away. Even if you argue in your defense that you aren’t turning anyone away, you are. Gays are not looked upon from a position of love.
    The thing is, no one ever bothers to explain to me why it’s so wrong to be gay. They don’t understand it themselves and that’s why they can never honestly explain it to me. To be gay is not the same as someone being hooked on drugs or a violent person or anything. It’s not something that you have to painfully drain from your body. If anyone disagrees with this statement they should tell me why.

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my tweets

  • RT @EugeneCho: We wait for Christ to return to restore all things but while we wait, we join and partner with God to work towards that rest… || 13 hours ago
  • Father/daughters bonding time at the Seahawks game. Grateful to the Panthers organization for the tix. Now, go Hawk… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 2 days ago
  • "Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future." ~ Jürgen Moltmann || 2 days ago
  • They play against my Seahawks tomorrow but who cares. What a privilege to preach the Gospel at the Carolina Panther… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 3 days ago
  • We wait for Christ to return to restore all things but while we wait, we join and partner with God to work towards that restoration. #advent || 3 days ago
  • Washington Huskies. 2016 PAC-12 Champs! #WOOF || 4 days ago

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