• John Kim

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”

So the other day I went to a new salon, and my hairdresser introduced himself as Marlon.

“Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you.”

Marlon had long curly brown hair, and spoke and dressed in a somewhat effeminate fashion. There’s a lot of that in California, so I didn’t think twice about it. After laying out a roadmap for the haircut, we got to chatting about life, and the conversation turned to my old band, The Ally.

“Where did that name come from?” Marlon asked.

“Well there’s an author named Carlos Castaneda who went to experience drug-induced psychedelic journeys with native Americans in Mexico. One type of spirits he met were called Allies, and they didn’t have a prescriptive way of looking at the world. They didn’t care about morals. Whatever you were trying to do, they would try and help you with that. We wanted our music to help people without judging them, so that’s where the name came from.”

Marlon got really excited by that. He had a masters in spiritual psychology, and had his own fair share of psychedelic experiences that worked into his own music. He shared his dream of incorporating opera into a jazz vocal style and relayed that he was preparing to apply to Juilliard. I know how incredibly difficult it is to get into the program, so despite the background conversations about a more alternative spirituality, I asked Marlon if I could pray for him.

“Oh my yes! I would so love that!!”

Marlon looked up, closed his expectant eyes, and grabbed my shoulders with both his hands. When I pray for strangers, sometimes I’ll lay hands on them, but this was the first time I’ve had one lay hands on me! I prayed protection over his application process and for God’s peace and presence in the midst of it all. As I prayed, I realized that I had been using “he” to describe Marlon in prayer, but it dawned on me that maybe he was transgender. So I started to stumble and pause in my prayer here and there, taking the time to replace male pronouns with Marlon’s name.

“And I thank you for everything you’re doing in his… uh… I mean… in Marlon’s life…”

After I said Amen, I looked up and Marlon was tearing. In a choked up voice he said “I’ve had some terrible, terrible things happen to me in my life. But I believe in God... I do. I believe he’s real. Thank you so much for this.”

He asked me about my spiritual background, and I told Marlon about how I’d also experienced some terrible things in my life. How I’d been bullied, and how it drove me away from church and a relationship with God, but how I’d come back to it all after realizing how much he’s always loved me and pursued me.

“Well I know you’re leaving town, but if you’re ever back I would so love to go to church with you.”

“Oh my goodness I would so love that. Let me get your number!”

So I passed him my phone, and Marlon entered his number and his real name… Marla!

To this day I don’t know if Marla is gay, trans, or just big-boned. But I know that she is beautiful in her own way, and that God loves her very much. I believe in knowing scripture and having a viewpoint on what’s on God’s heart with regards to holiness. But increasingly I’m wondering if loving others manifests more of heaven on earth than debating theology.

Dear Lord, thanks for the opportunity to minister to Marla. These sorts of moments excite me so much. Bless her and show yourself powerfully in her life so she may come to have a deep, intimate relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • John Kim

John 11:23 “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’”

A couple weeks back I met a really inspiring gentleman named “Ol’ Skool”. After introducing myself I asked him about his story. He replied (and I paraphrase)

“I’m a rapper and back in the day, my group Abstract Mindstate, we were one of the hottest acts in the Chicago Hip Hop scene. I eventually got burnt out being an artist and it didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere. So I went and worked with Kanye as the head of A&R for his record label.

It’s been over a decade that I’ve been working on the business side of the industry. I had no hope whatsoever that I’d ever be an artist again. But then one day out of nowhere, Kanye calls me and tells me we need to bring back Abstract Mindstate. And I say to him ‘you telling me the world needs some forty something year old rappers right now? You crazy!’ And he says to me

‘That’s EXACTLY what the world needs right now. You are going to save lives and inspire hope.’”

Mr West produced and featured on the duo’s record. They’ve produced a documentary about the story that will feature at Sundance and major film festivals around the world. Not to mention the upcoming world tour…

When I heard the story I felt overwhelmed and immediately thought of two men… my dad and Lazarus. See when it seems like there’s no hope, God always has a greater plan.

Lord, thanks for your reminder. Every setback is a setup for greater favor. Your hope… is EXACTLY what the world needs right now. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us as we head towards 2022. In your son’s name, Amen.

  • John Kim

Job 31:16 “If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary…”

When I make big decisions, I generally gather information, weigh the pros and cons, and then ask God which way he’d like me to go. I often find that his direction is in line with “what makes sense” given the circumstances. But it’s especially exhilarating when he leads in a direction that makes no sense at all. When it works out (and it always has), you have no choice but to look back and give credit to the big guy upstairs.

Well, Elaine and I have felt prompted to pray about spending more time in Los Angeles. That could mean spending a bit more time here on vacations, but we’ve also let our imaginations run wild looking at houses, schools, and business opportunities. It’s been really fun, but today I felt convicted about a big hole in my process.

Rising income inequality is not unique to the United States, but somehow the manifestations seem to be more visceral here than in places like Singapore. There have been multiple shootings in Beverly Hills over the last few months. The homeless litter idyllic beaches next to multi-million dollar mansions in Santa Monica. Most of my thinking around the homeless had more to do with their impact on real estate values than it did with concern for their well-being.

But today I’m reminded that godly men like Job, St Francis and Jesus himself cared for the underprivileged. They loved and blessed the poor, as if they were family. And if God leads us to spend more time in LA in any form, I feel convicted that my calculus must change on what I’m sent here to do.

Lord, thank you for opening my eyes. Great problems are great opportunities, and I look forward to seeing what you have in store for this city and this nation. In you we trust. Amen.