When making the daily rounds through social media streams, it’s way too easy for me to devolve into cynicism. Between the shouty political noise and clickbaity look-at-me clamoring, it can all be a little much.

But this, this is an example of the power of genuine, authentic faith in Jesus to cut through the noise and brokenness of our culture.

Ingrid Williams, the wife of Monty Williams, the associate head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was tragically killed in a car accident last week.

By all accounts, Williams is a beloved figure around the NBA and this incredible message he delivered at his wife’s memorial service demonstrates why:

Williams demonstrates so much to admire: his genuine love and admiration for his wife, his trust and faith in God even in these darkest of times. As he said during his beautiful eulogy, “This will work out. Doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Doesn’t mean it’s not painful. Doesn’t mean we won’t have tough times. What we need is the Lord. And that’s what my wife tried to exhibit every single day.”

But at 4:40, Williams says something truly stunning:

I’m going to close with this, and I think it’s the most important thing that we need to understand. Everybody is praying for me and my family, which is right, but let us not forget that there were two people in this situation, and that family needs prayer as well. And we have no ill will toward that family.

In my house, we have a sign that says ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife.

Life is hard. It is very hard. And that was tough. But we hold no ill will towards the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family, because they grieve as well.

Normally, I’m in the don’t read the comments camp of Internet browsing. Too often, the comments are worse than a schoolyard with their no-you’re-the racist accusations and anonymized name-calling.

But the comments (at least on one popular sports blog) speak to the authenticity of Monty Williams’ witness of the hope and power we find in Jesus. A quick sampling:

Comment 3

It’s always heartwarming when a true Christian is heard from. I am not religious, but I believe the teachings of Christ is the lessons of forgiveness. Forgiveness is what you need in your heart to look at others and understand they grieve too. To turn the other cheek, sometimes you need to see through the eyes of others, as painful as that might be. The test of your beliefs is when you are in the darkest place, when everything is crumbling.

It is truly awesome to behold.

Comment 1

“We didn’t lose her. When you lose something you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”

Damn. Those sentences right there. Stopped me cold and made me think. What a powerful thing to say in such a simple and concise manner.

Comment 2

I’m a huge Knicks fan an I remember when they drafted him out of Notre Dame and everyone was concerned about his preexisting heart condition. It turns out he managed to rise above it and made a good career for himself. As great as that was, it appears his life off the court was even better.

Its heartbreaking that he lost his wife the way he did, but man, having that type of faith is pretty awesome. I don’t care what religion someone believes in, but when you see that type of faith, love, and forgiveness in someone, you know they will be able to carry on.

Was his condition that his heart is enormous? Sure sounds like it.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus rest upon the Williams family as they navigate their sorrow and loss, and may they continue to walk in such genuine faith.

My lovely wife was featured in this great interview at Christianity Daily!

PJ interview

Her leadership, wisdom, and pastoral insight are so vital—not only for Anchor City, but for San Diego and the world.

Working side-by-side with her and watching her mentor & coach other pastors & planters, discern & guide the culture of our church community, and pour into the lives of our leaders and church members is a tremendous honor and joy.

As Philippians 1:27 says (emphasis mine), “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

As I told a friend on Facebook, she’s the beauty & brains in this operation. Fortunately, I can provide some of the brawn!

Sermon 4 - Saint Exupery

With each passing day, I discover a new joy in this journey of church planting. As any planter will tell you, it’s lots and lots of work—but absolutely worth it!

I enjoy many different kinds of work, including graphic design, web editing, and freelance writing (and love that they’re part of my vocational mix) but I’m discovering that being a part of and helping to pastor Anchor City is really where my heart is. As God awakens and unleashes His dreams for each member of our amazing community, I’m filled with gratitude and wonder.

As the author of The Little Prince notes in the quote image above, pastoring at Anchor City isn’t about assigning tasks or accomplishing my 5-point vision plan: it’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder, discovering the vast, endless ocean of God’s grace.

A couple of unexpected opportunities have come up from this church planting journey, and I would truly value your prayers, friends.

  • First, my lovely wife and I will be sharing a breakout session at The Fellowship Community National Gathering on Wednesday here in San Diego. We’ll be sharing about our planting journey and what we feel it means for us to be a church for our great city.
  • Second, I’ll be part of a panel discussion at Exponential West on October 8th called “Engaging Healthy Conversations on Race Relations” alongside an incredible group of Kingdom leaders (for real, how did I end up in this group?). I hardly consider myself an expert on racial reconciliation, but I passionately believe a diverse church who reflects the joy and creativity of Jesus is a beautiful, credible witness to our divided, broken world (Revelation 7:9-10). As an Asian American, a central part of my life of faith has been Jesus’ redemption of my “neither/nor” existence into a “both/and” identity in which I can empathize with those who haven’t found a place.

“Platforms” are a funny thing. More power to those who want to, and are able to, reach large audiences through preaching, writing, or online. My lovely wife and I often say that we just want to be faithful in our little corner of the world. That’s not some kind of “holy” humility talking: as I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, I recognize how God has wired me as an introvert (and shy, to boot), so public speaking events (outside of our church community) are not a top priority for me. At the same time, I’m discovering how much I love and am energized by seeing life transformation happening in our Anchor City community and, through us, in our city and world.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be… It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

If there can be some kind of Kingdom impact through sharing my story, let it be so. As we seek to join God’s mission of redemption for our cities and for our world, we need each other. Maybe I’ll see you at one of these gatherings!

Our church community isn’t the most liturgical or formal. Even though my lovely wife and I have been ordained as ministers of the Word & Sacrament for a little while now, we generally don’t often wear vestments. [An aside: I did wear a clerical collar for the first time when taking my daughter to an event at the USD campus to protest racial discrimination as part of the post-Ferguson movement.]

Yesterday, as part of our worship service, we celebrated the Eucharist together. Whenever my lovely wife and I lead communion at church, we wear stoles in recognition of the significance of this sacrament (after all, for Presbyterians, we’ve only got two!).

As I began to read the Words of Institution, one of our first graders asked why I had put on a stole. I began to explain that when farmers lead oxen, they need to use a yoke—otherwise the oxen might run roughshod over the entire farm! In the same way, I told him, the stole is a symbol that we are all yoked to Christ, that He is the Leader.

Our first grader thought about it, smiled, and said, “So… it’s sort of like a leash then?” 

Sorta, I told him, as we all laughed! However, for followers of Jesus, we willingly accept His guidance and direction in all that we do (or, at least, that’s the goal).

*   *   *   *   *

Friends, may your Lenten fasts remind you that you are made for more than this world has to offer. May your capacity to love God & others expand as you make room in your hearts for more of Christ. And may you find joy in being yoked to our King.

Anyone who has been in full-time vocational ministry in a church setting will know firsthand the knife’s edge of burnout and disillusionment.

In some ways, we respond to God’s call because we are open-hearted to his purposes, but it is that very open-heartedness that can leave us wounded, jaded, and burned out.

I am grateful that God, in His grace and wisdom, opened my eyes to see that pastoral work is about a whole lot more than preaching in front of big crowds very early in my ministry life. It’s certainly not wrong to have big dreams for God; we just need to be careful how we define “big” or “important” in the Kingdom.

One of my most powerful moments of “re-conversion” came as I dug into Scripture and saw God’s passionate heart for justice. Not the flavor-of-the-month activism that fills your social media stream, but the kind God declares in Amos 5:24:

Let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

This awakening to justice breathed new life into my relationship with Jesus and my heart to serve God and others.

The Gospel encompasses personal righteousness, but never at the exclusion of compassion or justice for others. The fullness of God’s Shalom, where Christ rules and reigns as King, leads to the flourishing of all people as God renews all of creation. Followers of Jesus are invited to participate in that mission of restoration and redemption, through our words, actions, relationships, and stewardship.

Way back in 2009, I heard the origin of the One Day’s Wages story at the very first Idea Camp (created, curated & hosted by Charles Lee).  There, I heard Eugene Cho tell the story of how his family, on a very ordinary pastor’s salary, had committed $100,000 toward the fight against global poverty. I marveled as Eugene shared, “We’re not asking people to do anything we’re not willing to do.”

From their very real personal sacrifice and leadership, ODW has become a powerful force for good, “a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.” I am thankful for ODW’s partnership with Justice Ventures International, on whose Advisory Board I serve.

I have eagerly anticipated Eugene’s book, Overrated and, though painful to read at times (because of the level of self-reflection it requires), I highly commend this book to others.

A quick heads-up, though. Eugene is not passing out trophies to everyone just for showing up. He asks himself, and all of us — particularly in this age of celebrity causes and slacktivism — one sharp, insightful question:

Are you more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?

I appreciated Eugene’s pastoral reflection on justice as discipleship:

A gospel that not only saves but also serves;
A gospel that not only saves but seeks to restore all things back unto the one that ushered forth all that is good and beautiful;
A gospel that not only saves but ushers in the Kingdom of God;
A gospel that not only saves but restores the dignity of humanity — even in the midst of our brokenness and depravity.
This gospel is not just for us. The gospel is good news for all.

Eugene shares with honesty, humor, and grace. As a local pastor in Seattle, Eugene is keenly aware that justice is not about jumping on some kind of bandwagon. That sort of activism leads to burnout. However, when our eyes our opened to see God’s heart of and for justice, we are transformed in the process:

We need to pursue justice not just because the world is broken, but because we’re broken too. Pursuing justice helps us put our own lives in order. Perhaps this is what God intended — that in doing His work serving others, we discover more of His character and are changed ourselves.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” And, in the interest of full disclosure, I also purchased a copy of this book because I believe its message is that important. 

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