Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Reading Interview Series, where I chat with bookworms, avid readers and learners, to unpack their reading habits and philosophy.
My first guest is Justin Kim. Justin Kim is a public speaker and minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His official title is Assistant Director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the Editor of Collegiate Quarterly, a religious publication for young adults. He graduated from a Roman Catholic high school, a Jewish-sponsored university, and has dialogued with many denominations.
In this conversation, we talked about how he digests books, how he uses audiobooks, reading in first and second languages, parenting and reading, reading for students and graduate students, how he finds time to read, using emotion as a tool for learning, and much more. I enjoyed it tremendously and I hope you will too.
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I’m excited to introduce to you Josephine’s Letter, an e-letter that will debut this Sunday, Jan 31, 2016!
Through these letters, I’ll be sharing with you books I’m reading, notable quotes I come across, interesting articles, podcasts, or videos from around the web, as well as updates from this blog. Essentially, it’s a personally curated reading enjoyment just for you–(subscribers only. Sign up to get the letters!)–delivered straight to your inbox.
Also, it is a way for me to hear from you–your ideas and thoughts on the topics included in the letters–so we can build a community of readers and thinkers.
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The first edition will come out this Sunday, so look for it in your inbox then!
Thank you and happy reading,
P.S. I have not decided how frequent the letters are going to be, but right now I’m starting with 1-2 per month. I’ll change that in the future based on your feedback, of course.
Thinking is a private act and one’s inner life is singularly one’s own. But while there is no twin to our mind—no other mind can mirror the totality of our thoughts—it can find partial reflections in others. This alone can invigorate the whole being.
I’m talking about a phenomenon where one can resonate with another’s thoughts.
There is an experiment that has left an impression on my mind from younger years. In Physics, resonance occurs when a wave or vibration induces a synchronous vibration in a neighboring object. When you strike a tuning fork nearby another identical tuning fork, the former will induce vibration in the latter and yield the same pitch.
Here’s a demo video from MIT on the experiment:
Whenever I hear the word “resonance” or say “I resonate with you”, this is the image that appears in my mind. It is something like the words in the Les Miserables song,
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drum
I love thinking and reading by myself. What’s even greater though is being able to talk about those thoughts, about what I’ve read with someone who gets it, who understands and shares my excitement, and then supplements the thoughts. I gain a lot of mental energy from this.
My sharp friend Amy is one of these special people in my life. The other day we were on the phone gushing about Bryan Stevenson, books and community, and prison ministry. How awesome. Every girl needs a pal like this!
The process of thinking is solitary. But the fruits of thinking are meant to be communal. Herein lies the miracle: instead of having less, these fruits multiply when shared.
When I first started coming to GYC, I would remember every message, every speaker, and every conviction felt during each session. I would even remember who sang which special music for which evening. I learned so many new things, heard so many fresh thoughts that I had never heard before. My hungry and ignorant soul needed those sermons.
But if you’re like me and will be attending your n-th GYC conference this year, you may have more difficulty in remembering the messages you heard in previous GYCs. It takes me a few minutes now to distinguish between GYC 2008 and 2009, and I honestly can’t remember what happened in 2010. The conferences, plenary sessions, and workshops blend together in this one big blob of memory where I picture multitudes of people entering and exiting the auditorium.
If that is so, I want to suggest that listening to 7 sermons straight each day may not be your greatest need in coming to GYC. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come, though. I’d like to submit that your greatest need may be to serve others at the conference and volunteer.
Early this year I wrote about my volunteering experience at GYC 2011, about how much fun it was. As a result, I couldn’t attend most of the sessions and seminars, and I remember almost nothing from last year. But I assure you, I was spiritually fed and refreshed.
If you have never volunteered at GYC, here’s my attempt to canvass you to do it this year.
First, you get to work with people who are like-minded and passionately determined to give the best for God. The resonance in thought, feeling, and mission is at a level you will rarely see elsewhere (and if you’re in a secular environment – never). As a result, the kind of synergy in teamwork that takes place is simply invigorating.
Second, you get to be involved in a short-term project that will very likely end well, and with low chance of interpersonal conflicts because everyone is so nice. Even if there’s conflict, the prevailing custom is to be Christ-like. Basically, a happy ending is guaranteed and you will gain that rewarding feeling from a job well done.
Third, you get to appreciate the complicated orchestra that is GYC. The details that go into actualizing an event for 7000 people are simply astounding, and not one person involved in the project has superpowers. Have you thought about what goes into moving 7000 people from the auditorium to the dining hall without confusion? GYC happens because of individual contributions from young men and women whose lives have been touched by the Gospel. And THAT is simply amazing.
Fourth, you get to see how God covers glitches. Because there are so many pieces that need to come together, mistakes happen. And you get to practice that Christian love and humility you hear about in the seminars, because it may be that God covers some of the glitches through you. What about practicing patience during complaints when registration is down? These things do happen, because we’re imperfect human beings in an imperfect world.
The machinery that makes the conference happen is not faultless, but it so happens that God’s grace is enough to cover our–yes, all 7000 of us–shortcomings and weaknesses.
You may get sore leg muscles from running back and forth delivering water bottles. Or you may get blisters from rushing to print handouts for speakers. But there’s a storehouse of blessings that will not be unlocked until you are engaged in service.
“in our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy andthe highest education are in service”(Education, p. 309)
So, volunteer! Just remember to do stretches each night and that blisters heal. But that joy of service will do something more lasting to your soul. See you in Seattle!
If you asked me during my early college years what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d tell you: to be an ordinary, good person. You know, do good things in life, graduate, work, get married, have a family, et cetera. I once asked my dad, who worked so hard to send me to MIT, whether he would be OK if after I graduated from college I did absolutely nothing with my degree. Actually, he said he would be fine with that, since there was more to life than a degree.
While there was profound truth in that statement, my mindset wasn’t as deep then. Since the pressure was off, I felt essentially excused from having high ambitions. I wanted to go through life as inconsequentially as possible, as quietly as possible, not causing any stir, whether good or bad. Besides, I thought Christians were not supposed to be ambitious.
Which was why when I heard that GYC 2003 theme and read the originating quote, “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children” (Education, p. 18), my life philosophy was turned upside down.
You’re telling me that no human ambitions can equate God’s ambitions for His children?
I had to re-think a lot about how I approached life. I thought I had reached some decent heights in life, but God said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Come up higher.” New heights started opening up to me, things I had never imagined before.
With others involved in the Boston area campus ministries, I started doing things (of consequence). First as a participant, then slowly, I learned to get excited: “What about this?” or “Oh we can do that!” The most mind-blowing thing about all of this was the realization that I could actually do something for God and His cause! I was not inconsequential, and campus ministry gave my life so much meaning. I could be ambitious not for ambitions’ sake or the world’ applause, but for God, which was the only thing that mattered! I canvassed for two summers and the thought of an ordinary life grew dimmer by the day…
After undergraduate years, I spent a year as a missionary intern at C.A.M.P.U.S. to minister to public university students. There, my paradigm was further shaped. One of the resounding themes during the C.A.M.P.U.S. missionary training program (MTP) was the assertion, “You can change the world.”
The first time I heard it, I was like, “Yeah, right.” No one had ever said that to me before. “Me? Change the world? Pff.” But then they kept saying it, until slowly I started to believe them.
The thing that made it believable was because it was said in the context of Jesus Christ. The phrase “You can change the world” is energizing by itself, but without substance, it really is just a self-help, self-motivating type of mantra that will eventually fade away. No, the full phrase that was repeated at MTP and that stuck with me was, “Change the world by being changed.”
What does that mean? It means that you don’t change the world by your energy, loud voice, charisma, leadership skills, campaigning, or efforts. The key to making an impact in the world, a true impact that will last for eternity, is to be changed in the inside.
Think about Jesus. He did not start any organization, He did not have any degree, and at the end of His life everyone forsook Him. His life was simple, devoid of pomp and glory. But He changed and still is impacting the world, thousands of years after His life on earth. It was the force and nobility of His character that rippled through the ages.
The impact that will matter in heaven’s accounting comes only when Jesus changes and transforms a person in the inside, to be like Him in character. This is the prerequisite that will only give meaning to the eloquence, charisma, and these other accessory skills. Once that happens, with God by your side, nothing is impossible.
Fewer things can resonate with a youthful soul than dreaming the impossible. “You’re too young to know that certain things are impossible, so you do them anyway,” says the character William Pitt in the movie Amazing Grace.
Now, one of my favorite things to do is get together with like-minded friends, and with some Häagen-Dazs mango sorbet to fuel the brain, start a “dreaming session,” thinking and brainstorming about things to do to address what’s lacking. Many a project has come out as a brainchild. Some fell through, some took off, but in all of them there were fun, excitement, and passion. I mean, the joy of finding things that excite your very being, that you don’t want to go to sleep and you can’t wait to wake up, is indescribable. Life is so much more meaningful this way.
The last thing I want is an ordinary life. I can’t go back to a dreamless life. I have no straight plans or visions of how my life should be, because I want to be surprised. I want to always say yes when God calls me to a higher ground, and I want to see impossible things happen.