Friday, December 28, 2007


Finally made it to the Takashi Murakami exhibit at MOCA last night...fabulous!! Our day trip to Little Tokyo began in the afternoon as Rick, Carey, Carlos and I first walked around J-Town for a bit before visiting the Japanese American National Museum to see the "Landscaping America" exhibit about the art, community, and influence of the JA gardener on the American landscape over the last century. Both my grandfathers were gardeners after WWII, one of the few ways they could earn a living after getting out of the internment camps, so it brought back a lot of memories, as did the continuing exhibit of the internment camps themselves. I'm always moved by the actual barrack from Heart Mountain, WY on display. My father and his family were in the Heart Mountain camp (my mom and her family at Poston, AZ), and I can't help but imagine the heartache and extreme circumstances and conditions, yet also the amazing perseverance and ingenuity of the Japanese American community in those years. Also thoroughly enjoyed the Giant Robot exhibit celebrating the 50th issue of their publication (congrats GR!), the show featuring a diverse sampling of emerging artists they know and work with. Then we made our way over to the MOCA for Murakami. I was struck by the scale of most of his work, the array of color that bombard the senses, and the fascinating juxtaposition of ancient/future, cute/explicit, sterile/organic that infuse his sculptures and paintings. Totally worthy of your time! More info here

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Favorite Books of 2007

Here are a few of the best books I read this year:

1. "The Devil in the White City" Erik Larson. Magic and murder at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Hands down one of the most fascinating books I've ever read! Filled with the kind of detail and coincidence that makes for intriguing reading. National Book Award Winner

2. "In the Heart of the Sea" Nathaniel Philbrick. Another National Book Award Winner. Before the Titanic, this was the disaster everyone knew about. The tragedy that inspired Melville's Moby Dick. Thoroughly enthralling.

3. "Grace (Eventually)" Anne Lamott. The same razor wit, wicked humor, and honest humanity you'd expect from her, only better.

4. "Searching for God Knows What" Donald Miller. Like Lamott, honest, humorous, and insightful musings about life, religion, and Jesus. This time around, about a relational God.

5. "girl meets God" Lauren Winner. The engaging and often heartbreaking account of the author's journey from Judaism to Christianity (and sometimes back again), filled with interesting and personal perspectives about both faiths from the lenses of the other.

I Need Jesus?

Tonight while driving over to a friend's house I happened behind a white, suburban, mini-van, a Hondo Odyssey. It was garden variety, nothing distinctive about it, nothing except for the big, red, bold letters on the rear bumper: "YOU NEED JESUS." Immediately I was offended. "You don't even know me, buster!" I thought. Now the honest truth is that I do need Jesus, and in that way, the words are theologically accurate. I need Jesus because I'm a mess better than half the time, and I know it. But most days I don't need people telling me that, especially strangers in mini-vans. As I drove around to the side of the van, in even bigger red letters was another "YOU NEED JESUS" message (In case you're coming from a different angle) where you might have expected to see "Roto Rooter" or "Geek Squad." See, this is precisely what's wrong with that kind of Christian. They think they can save the world at a distance. As long as they speak from inside their mini-vans without getting to actually know real people, they will be seen as obnoxious and arrogant. "I have something that you don't" is the message. But that's insultingly presumptuous, especially when your spirituality may actually be more developed than theirs. And that's what I like so much about Jesus. He never told anyone they needed God from a distance or from the side of a cart. That's why he doesn't write in the stars or send messages from a disembodied voice in the sky. Instead he comes to us, as a human person, up close, personal. He comes to know us, to love us, then to show us the way to life, if we want it. He loved the people right in front of him, and in his presence, people made their own realization that they needed God. "Where else would we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life," his disciples would tell him. In Jesus, our need finds healing grace, not on the side of a van, but in very the presence of God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Part of Christmas

My friend Tommy was playing with his 6-month old daughter as she giggled to his little finger pokes and silly faces. He said, "There's nothing better in life than to hear my child laugh!" It's true. As a parent, there's nothing that zings the heart with gladness quite like hearing your child break out in smiles and laughter. In the gospel of Luke, the angel proclaims to the shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the a Savior has been born for you...a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Maybe more than anything, Christmas is about joy. Because somewhere in Bethlehem, unbeknownst to most of the world, a baby broke out in laughter. God broke out in laughter. And because of him, we know that there is a Father whose heart is zinged everytime he hears the laughter of one of his children, which of course, is us.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Fish Tale

It's the day before Christmas and after weeks of neglect, I finally cleaned out the fish tank. I couldn't stand it anymore and felt sorry for the poor fishy. When I open up the lid and started pouring out the brown-tinged water...Phew!!!! What a stench!! It was so bad I had to turn my head away. To think this is what fish do, swim in their own excrements and bile. Then I thought, wait a minute, that isn't so different than us - except we call it "pollution." It's all the more amazing, then, that the Son of God would enter our world, full of human excrement and bile, in the form of sin, overconsumption, neglect, and inhumanity. Yet he came to us to redeem our world from the inside out, one person at a time, then the whole earth, out of his mercy for us. I didn't shoot a "before" picture of the tank, I suppose, because I was ashamed of what it had become. Yet Jesus was not so ashamed of us or what our world has become to prevent himself from entering into our filth in order to make us clean through his own identification with stinky humanity. Is it any surprise that a holy God would choose to be born in a barn, surrounded by the stench of the world in order to save it? Praise be to God!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fullerton House Church Christmas

Our Fullerton house church ended the 2007 year the way we eating! This time a Christmas bash at Diane and James Harrison's place.

Getting in line early for our ham (2x) and dessert (5x) dinner.

A break in the action, and oh so happy with their white elephant gifts! I should have shot video...Absolutely the loudest, most chaotic, and involved white elephant exchange ever...everyone was making rulings as the game went on...ended with a controversial last second "doubles" role of the dice by Luis (who swears it was before time expired), saving him from taking home the "Wedding with Bella" DVD he brought last year. Sheer madness!

Albert, the maddest white elephanter of them all! Will even still from children, and use his daughter in the heist!

Celebrating the birthdays of Diane, Clarence, Brice, and Long...and, of course, Jesus too (though that is Karina pictured, not baby Jesus).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Solidarity Christmas Store

Last evening I was able to attend the 4th Annual Solidarity Christmas Store at the Garnet Community Center in Fullerton, a two-day event for the community. Epic is a partnering church, but It's the first year we are participating as one of the donating churches for this, and it's a great feeling. Above are the organizers from Solidarity and the community development association with the hundreds of gifts that were donated. Transformers for boys and art supplies for girls seemed to be the big winners last night. Over 80 families signed up to purchase two gifts per child which were discounted from retail prices, with the money returning to the community through the development association. Solidarity is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower followers of Christ to live out their faith in love by impacting communities toward holistic transformation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flat Tire

It was pouring last night on the way to house church in Pasadena. After a warm dinner and a hilarious round of our now infamous white elephant gift exchange, we headed out. With the rest of the gang having already driven off, our friend Michelle discovered she had a flat. Luckily, I was still there and pulled up to see what was the matter. Fortunately, we were also still nearly in front of Harry & Julie's place. So Harry came down and he and I changed the tire with the rain still coming down and our feet fully soaked from the water rushing down the curbside on its way to the street drain in front of us. When I got home and took off my outer jacket, I was startled by the heaviness of it. All that time I never really noticed the jacket's weight, soaked as it was, draped over my shoulders. Harry and I were helping a friend with a flat tire, nothing heroic, any of us would have done the same. In other words, it wasn't heavy. "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed," says Proverbs. Sometimes there's something exhilarating and good about changing a tire in the rain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Supper Club

On Friday, the Doi-clan joined a bunch of other Epic folks for the December Supper Club outing at the Hunt's, home of our house church, so it was a nice convergence. Catering was from Tulsa Rib Company in Tustin (Greg Nakata's LA favorite). Well, actually, food was from there, catering was courtesy of Greg and Esther (thanks you two)! Beef ribs, creamy corn, potato wedges (part chip, part baked), getting to know people. Stayed up until 2:00AM (and paid for it later!) playing the domino game "Mexican Train."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh, To Be An A#@%!

There's no doubt I can be an ass at times, I admit it. But sometimes I really wish I could be an ass. For instance...On Friday my wife and I were at our daughter's awards assembly for school. It's held outside at the amphitheatre, so there's lots of standing room for the parents (and I mean lots). Dorene and I are there early so we get a prime view against the back wall, but center. The awards presentation gets underway, and a woman walks up and stands next to me. No less than five minutes into the program, she moves right in front of my line of view. And parks there. So in disbelief, I have to take a moment to assess what just happened. Then in typical Christian fashion I turn to my wife and whisper, "I think I should walk up there and stand a foot in front of her, what do you think?" My wife, actually being a Christian, just laughs. I tell her, "Sometimes, I wish I could be more of an ass." In other words, I just couldn't bring myself to do it, even though it would have been exhilarating, I know it. This is what I think Paul meant by "not gratifying the desires of the sinful nature." So consider it a small victory. To show there's no hard feelings, I decided to feature her prominently on my blog.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Favorite Albums of 2007

It's Friday, it's near the end of the year, seems like a fine time for a 'best of' list. Here's my fab five for '07:

1. "Graduation" - Kanye West
Nothing here as strong as the best from "Late Registration" but a personal and consistent signature of West beats and samplings with a nod to a more electronic and vintage sound.

2. "Kala" - M.I.A.
If you can believe it, an even more underground, experimental, and world-influenced offering than last year's "Arular." Like an adventure to places you'd never think of going by yourself.

3. "Favourite Worst Nightmare" - Arctic Monkeys
The real-deal British invasion, smart lyrics and music from these young Sheffield blokes.

4. "Weekend in the City" - Bloc Party
Another UK band's sophomore effort...tales of youthful loss and longing written to soaring and anthmic arrangements.

5. "The Bird and the Bee" - (Self Titled)
Jazzy, loungy, electro-pop with Inara George's sweet, sparkling vocals.

Honorable Mention: "Alright, Still" Lily Allen; "Back to Black" Amy Winehouse; "Koop Islands" Koop; "Cinco de Mowo" Mocean Worker; "Neon Bible" Arcade Fire; "As I Am" Alicia Keys

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To Whom Pass the Keys?

As a 15 year-old kid (a year before I got my license), my parents gave me the keys to the El Camino truck. I had already learned to drive around in empty parking lots and had plenty of practice on the streets since I had my permit. Back then it helped that I looked older than I was. So one day my parents said, "Here take the truck, drive, just be careful."

With that kind of trust in me, I knew what a privilege I was given. I drove.

Lately, I've been mulling over the kind of trust we give to our next generation ministers. To whom do we give the keys to the church of the future? Certainly God calls entire communities to be the body of Christ, with each individual a necessary and vital part of the whole. But I've been reflecting on the unique contribution that can emerge from two specific kinds of people.

One is youth pastors. Because the church is not an institution, but a community, it is inherently relational, not corporate. Youth pastors intuitively get this in the manner in which they minister to youth. Youth pastors know it's all about relationship.
They know that what matters most with kids is taking an interest in them, getting to know them, so they do a lot of hanging around with them. From what I gather from the gospel accounts, this is what Jesus apparently did a lot of too. Jesus told us that the means and ends is always love - that it's all about investing in people through relationship. In this way, youth pastors may be uniquely positioned to lead organic and relationally-functioning faith communities of the future.

An added plus is that youth pastors also know how to communicate with an often distracted and disinterested audience. By necessity, the messages given by youth ministers often have just one point, are usually interactive, and many times have some kind of object-lesson component. Their teaching style is not a didactic lecture, but an communal experience of give and take, with a call to wrestle. Again, looking at the 'now' while peering into the future, I see this as the direction of communication in churches that will move away from a performance mentality to a shared conversation.

That's why I've been telling youth pastors that the future of the church, at least in part, belongs to them. That hanging with people and communicating through conversation is not something they should ever 'graduate' from, but may be exactly what is needed in developing future congregations. The temptation for youth pastors is to believe that doing ministry in 'big' church and graduating from 'jr.' to 'senior' pastor means taking a more 'grown-up' approach (because that's all they see). But maybe today's youth pastors are inherently well equipped to help the church find its core reality in relational discipleship.

Certainly becoming a faithful, competent, and effective pastor takes more than this, but I wonder if God isn't preparing young leaders for something beyond their current vision for it?

The other group to consider handing the keys are our missionaries. Again, I understand we are all missionaries really, whether across the street or around the world. And to that end, it applies to all who follow Christ. But I want to single out those who are doing the work of ministry in challenging contexts, particularly in urban settings and among the poor around the world. In these contexts, missionaries are key to the church of the future with regard to creating new and fresh theology.

Both Moses and Paul were the first missionaries, and coincidentally, the primary theologians of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Each reflected on God's work before it became God's word, informing them and their faith communities as to who God was and what he was up to.
As missionaries attempting to understand God's presence and preferences from among and within different cultures, their theological reflections became the basis for understanding mission in those contexts.

Missionaries are on the front lines, and thus by vocation, should be our most valued theologians. As professor Ray Anderson would say, "Ministry is not just where you apply theology, it's where you get theology!" The temptation is to believe that all the thinking about the church has already been done. But what the church needs most are not missionaries equipped merely with a theology learned in the classroom from some by-gone era, but missionaries who also will reflect on the new thing God is doing in their midst, as new cultures and people groups respond to Christ. We shouldn't delude missionaries into thinking that there is a bullet-proof theology to master, but rather encourage them to master the skill of thinking theologically. What they learn in their contexts, I imagine, would burn our ears! How much richer and more robust would the church be from these gleanings?!

At one time, not long ago, I too was a young seminarian and pastor trying to find my own voice and way in the often rigid and sometimes unwelcome terrain of pastoral ministry. I was fortunate, however, to be given the keys to drive. I helped start two churches by the age of 33. Now on occasion, I have the privilege of meeting young men and women training for the pastorate and the mission field from among the ranks of youth ministry - and can't help but think the church rests with them. I want to encourage them not to bend to the force of 'how it was' or 'how it's supposed to be,' thinking all the answers lie somewhere 'out there' in the 'grown-up' world. Instead bow to the God who speaks from the future into the present and courageously create with Him, new and vibrant communities of faith where Jesus stands at the core, but whose communities may look, think, and love like nothing that's come before.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I discovered British artist Jonathan Barnbrook recently through the November 23, 2007 Opinion Page of the LA Times. They asked him to create a graphic Op-Ed in support of the annual informal protest known as Buy Nothing Day (the day after Thanksgiving). The poster printed in the Times apparently isn't available through his website, but an earlier version is, along with a lot of his work. His take is smart, globally conscious, and visually arresting. In the Times piece, a comprehensive chart of the effects of big corporation on the average consumer is both amazing in its scope and seductively underground. I want a copy to hang in the office! Let me know if you find one! Its one of those things that I wish everyone could read.

Check out his work:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Franny and Zooey

Last week a friend from our congregation handed me his copy of Franny and Zooey by J.D.Salinger (The Catcher In the Rye), told me he thought I might enjoy it and that it was closest thing to a conversion experience he's had reading a book. I'm not through it yet, but it's a great read so far.

In the "Franny" portion of the book, there is a quote by the character so named that has got me thinking ever since. In a conversation with her boyfriend, she exclaims, "I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else's. I'm sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It's disgusting - it is, it is. I don't care what anybody says."

I read this passage to our house church the other day and opened it up for discussion. Though it is written in 1961, I wonder if she's on to something here for our time. It seems to me that many of our more well-attended churches in the U.S. preach some form of this self-empowerment, albeit with a Christian slant - fulfilling God's dreams and destiny for your life, of discovering your purpose and passion. I've even preached some of these messages myself. And in one sense, I think the pursuit of meaning and purpose is intrinsic to being human. What we are saying in this pursuit is, Who am I? What I am created to do? What is my unique contribution to this world? This is holy pursuit.

But I'm also beginning to wonder if there is a danger lurking in the way we can go about it, that there is a way that we can seek to get somewhere, do something distinguished, be someone interesting, all invoking the name of Jesus, yet doing so quite apart from him.

I asked our house church, "Did Jesus get somewhere? Did he do something distinguished? Was/Is he someone interesting?" The consensus was, "Of course." We all agreed to that. He is the most interesting and important person in all history. "But," I pressed, "Did he set out to do that? Were those his goals?"

When we read the gospels, we see that Jesus did get somewhere, that he was distinguished and interesting. We get that part right. But it doesn't appear that those were his goals. Instead, his goal was to stand with humanity in their need and estrangement from God and turn their faces back toward the grace and love found in Jesus' own life and love with the Father. He did this by humanizing those right in front of him - the leper, the Samaritan woman, the Pharisee at night. In Jesus, love came through a healing touch, a shared meal, an invitation to follow. In this way Jesus indeed got somewhere through his own life, death, and resurrection for the sake of others. Those who would later write about him note his life of distinction and interest though he himself did not seek fame nor try to make a name for himself. His life was marked by love and grace, sacrifice and humility.

It seems that Jesus did get somewhere and did become someone distinguished not by pursuing these as ends, but by loving others well and living a life of obedience in the ordinariness of life. Significance was not the goal, but a by-product of the extent of Jesus' love for broken humanity. To re-frame Franny's words, Jesus in his self-giving was completely without ego.

In my observation, there is a way that our generation is apt to pursue getting somewhere and attempting to live a distinguished and interesting life as a goal in itself. But when it's our core goal, it is a pursuit foreign to Jesus.

The difference may be subtle, but one that comes with a warning, I think. What may only be an error in measurement of 1mm on this side of a piece of wood may well end up being an error of a foot on the other, or to put it more dramatically, an error of just a few inches here on earth can mean sending a satellite miles off course in space. Could what we slightly get wrong in our 20's and 30's turn out to make all the difference in our old age? Is this what Jesus meant that we can gain the whole world and yet lose our souls?

I'm wondering if our pursuit of the illusive somewhere makes the goal always "out there" and abstract, never what's right in front of us and human. I wonder if in the pursuit of doing something distinguished and interesting it's more about us rather than about God. I wonder if all the searching for our purpose and passion can make a mysterious complexity out of simply loving people and blessing others with everything we have. I wonder if our desire to really go somewhere and be somebody can really be self-absorption and narcissim masked as divine pursuit.

The quest for significance, meaning, and purpose is a holy, human, and good pursuit. But for the follower of Jesus the nature and content of that pursuit must be marked by the road paved through humility, service, compassion, and generosity. In Jesus own life, we see that they are one and the same.

Ultimately what Jesus shows us is that way to true humanity starts by having the right end in mind. If we are to get anywhere in this life it must be the by-product having love as the goal, where people are not means but the ends. Maybe the answer to living our own lives of distinction is found in making the lives of others more distinguished and interesting, to encourage the humanity of others through our own.

Monday, December 10, 2007


As part of Epic's desire to make its website a "community and cultural portal" and not a just a place of information, my blog is an assortment of occasional insights, musings, and goings-ons from my life. In a world of increased self-importance and self-absorption through blogging, my intent is not to add another to the junk pile. But as a "full-time religious person" (I don't perceive myself that way, though I do occasionally feel that way) and as a semi-public person (even if it's only in our own church community), there can be a general curiosity about what is going on inside a pastor's life (and head). To that end, I hope to bring to light what I'm thinking about or living or failing at any given time, letting you into my world, however scary I realize that might be. Nevertheless, hope you enjoy!