• John Kim

Mark 9:24 "I believe; help my unbelief."

My son Kyan recently asked “hey Apa… what’s that word the pastor used this weekend? Like when you’re not sure there is a god because you believe nothing can be known about the nature of god?”

“You mean agnostic?”

“Yeah. I think that’s what I am. I think I’m agnostic.”

He proceeded to lay out how, though he appreciated his Christian upbringing, he couldn’t logically understand how to prove anything about the existence of any god, let alone a specific god of a specific religion. I freaked out for a second, as questions about my parental efficacy flashed across my mind, but then I remembered that I had the same sorts of questions in my youth (though I was 14 and Kyan is only 11). My questions back then led me on a winding journey, that eventually led back to my faith, albeit with a more open-minded perspective than what I probably started with.

I called a few friends this week to discuss. My mentor Dave Gibbons told me that doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. He’s actually going through a sermon series on doubt now at his church @Newsong. Then I called another friend Jason Min, who told me that facing doubt is actually a core value of his church @CitizensLa.

I think I’m going to explore more about the role of doubt in faith in the days ahead. Given my dad’s passing, there are lots of questions floating around our household about the nature of God and the world He created. “If God exists, why do people have to die? Why do bad things happen to good people? How does he decide such different outcomes for people if he loves all his children?” Though catalyzed by Kyan’s somewhat startling comment, in an increasingly transparent, connected world, there is no doubt that we all need to figure out how to surface, address and maybe even encourage more questions about why we believe what we believe.

Dear God, I feel like you’re shifting some things in the atmosphere. I don’t know what you have in store, but I know that it is good, because you are good. Even when we have questions and we can’t understand, we can take comfort that you love us, even when we don’t understand. I thank you for Kyan and his questions, and for the road ahead. In your son’s name, Amen.

  • John Kim

Job 1:21 The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Yesterday my dad went to be with Big Poppa in the Sky. He was comfortable and surrounded by loved ones. It’s never easy saying goodbye, but we feel incredibly blessed by the support of those around us, the richness of dad’s life, and the circumstances of his death.

My wife Elaine is a hospice care doctor and in that capacity has helped many patients go through their last days. She was reflecting yesterday that some go suddenly, leaving family members with a sense of unfinished business, and some go slowly often leading to long drawn out periods of pain. But somehow God gave us a good couple of years to prioritize spending time with my father, and yet that time was remarkably pain free for a cancer patient undergoing chemo and immunotherapy.

His condition really started to deteriorate when we touched down in Los Angeles earlier this month. Some might see that as unfortunate timing, but we know that God is never early, and he’s never late. He’s always on time. The fact that we could all be together to support him in the process was an incredible blessing. The fact that Elaine was around to guide us through the tough conversations proved invaluable. She flies off in a few days so we actually had a very short window where everyone was here, and somehow God chose to bring Dad back right in the middle of it. Cosmic…

Whenever he thought about his grandkids, my dad would smile ear to ear with this expression that beamed “how could I be so lucky?” My mom said that in her prayers she saw him with that same expression as he went to be with the Lord.

Bill Johnson once said that in heaven it will be easy to worship God. There is no death, no disease, no destruction… The presence of God will be so thick that every creature has no choice but to sing praises. As his father sat on his deathbed (he also went of cancer), Pastor Bill had this thought that “on earth, we have the privilege to worship and thank God, even in the midst of difficulty. That is something that is unique to our experience on earth, and in a strange way perhaps is something to be treasured.”

Am I sad? Yes of course. I’ve cried a lot over the past days, weeks and months. I’m going to miss my dad so much. While I’m yielded to God’s plan, I also prayed for complete and supernatural healing until the last breath. Then I prayed for a resurrection from the dead even after his last breath. It’s hard to let go, but it’s also a unique privilege to praise and thank God in times like these.

Lord, I love you. Thank you for your goodness and your mercy. Thank you for a father who exemplified your love to everyone around him. You give and you take away. Blessed be your name.

  • John Kim

Over a dozen people recommended that I listen to a podcast by Stanford Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman before I finally got around to it. Now I’m hooked.

Dr. Huberman explores the latest research, which often confounds traditional wisdom on everything from fitness to food and from improving focus to eliminating fear. I’m sleeping better, enjoying a more fun lifestyle, and probably added a decade to my lifespan with the habits I’ve implemented from his wisdom.

There are so many great nuggets in there, but the one that Huberman probably espouses most frequently is that “I focus on mechanism over protocol.”

[I paraphrase]

“See so often I find people just want me to tell them what to do. ‘What supplements should I buy? What time should I sleep? Should I lift weights or do crossfit? How many times per week?’ The reality is that everyone is different, and even if there is an ideal protocol for you to follow, life happens and you’re never going to be able to keep it up perfectly into perpetuity.

What I find much more effective than sticking to one protocol is to dig into the mechanism. If you understand how things work, based on peer-reviewed research from reputable publications, then you can formulate a routine for yourself. But when you can’t follow that routine one day because life happens, you can adjust based on your knowledge of the mechanism instead of wallowing in a sea of guilt. I find this approach much more sustainable and frankly more enjoyable than following a bunch of rules.”

I feel like in so many ways this encapsulates the spiritual life. It’s easy to teach my kids a set of rules. “You shouldn’t lie, steal or hurt people.” Before we have the time to get into all the details, that might be a good place to start. But over time as we live life together they start to understand the heart behind these rules.

“We’re throwing a surprise party for Mama so we need to lie about where we’re going tonight. That’s the loving thing to do right?”

“Right. Ok got it Apa.”

Jesus often scolded religious leaders for placing too much emphasis on the rules. Rabbis in his day would follow a certain “yoke”, which essentially represented a list of do’s and don’ts, many of which were impossible for a normal person to follow. It gave the “spiritually mature” folks a measuring stick to prove their own superiority over others. But in describing his own views on mechanism vs protocol, Jesus said this.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It’s about mercy not sacrifice. It’s about relationship, not the rules. It’s about mechanism, not protocol.

God, may I not look at the speck in my brother’s eye, and ignore to plank in my own. Help me to love others as you’ve loved me.