Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I visit the Spectrum Health in downtown, Grand Rapids, to receive a treatment called "phlebotomy" every Tuesday. While I have visited the same place for almost three months, I had a very pleasant encounter with the hospital chaplain today. She came to me and introduced herself as a Catholic sister. She asked my name and thought that my first name sounded as hard as Dutch last names. I told her that my name means eternal blessing, explaining that "Young" means "eternal" and "khill" is "blessing." My name is my life ever since I became a Christian!

Today, I have been thinking about what it means to be a Christian. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Christian as "one who professes belief in Jesus as Christ...; one who lives according to the teachings of Jesus." I like this simple definition. However, I also appreciate how Maya Angelou described it:

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I am not shouting "I'm clean livin."
I'm whispering "I was lost, but
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I'm not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say "I am a Christian,"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!
I am a Christian! This identity brings joy to me everyday. This identity also reminds me of my relationship with God: I am His follower and Christ is my master! This identity also points me to the fact that Christ is my true hope.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where am I going?

All new tenure line faculty at Calvin College has to take the Kuiper Seminar. I took it during the Interim Term (January 2009). We met everyday for 3 hours, and had a lot of heavy readings. My PhD training was easier than this. In the middle of the hectic Interim term, Don, Chairperson of my department, asked me about the Kuiper Seminar. I said “It’s busy, but I am enjoying it.” Don then asked me: Maybe it’s a good time for you to lead devotions for our faculty meeting in February. Would you share your blessings with us?” I agreed. I shared the following stories as devotions for the first faculty meeting in Spring semester.

Right before the Kuiper Seminar, I completed the first semester at Calvin College. Finishing all the grading around December 23rd, I was ready for Christmas break. Of course, I enjoyed our first Christmas in Michigan. After Christmas, I spent many hours of reflecting on God’s call and my reality. Of course, His call I mention was leaving Indiana and serving Calvin. My immediate realities include my increased pain related to the hip-joint arthritis. Cold weather and snow (I felt like having snow everyday) contribute a lot to my pain. In addition, taking phlebotomy (it is a practice of bloodletting, which involves taking larger amounts of blood out of your body) every Tuesday to reduce the iron level in my body has been very hard (the reason for the phlebotomy is iron-overload). I have 30 more weeks to go with it. In the middle of experiencing these challenges, I asked some questions to God.

• Why did you send me here?
• Could it be easier to deal with these issues at Indiana?

They were complaining questions. However, the real discerning question was this: “Lord, where am I going?”

The painful silent stillness from God was His response. With this silence, I was attending the Kuiper Seminar. From the first week of the Seminar, I was experiencing an INTELLECTUAL CRISIS. One of the definitions of the word “crisis” by one dictionary (Dictionary.com) provides two meanings:

1. a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined

2. turning point.

I believe this definition is more accurate and better than other definitions such as “a condition of instability or danger.” I feel like I am standing in a somewhat dark tunnel, not knowing exactly where to go. I see directions a bit unclearly (it’s somewhat dark), questioning what they are. While I don’t have clarity in discerning directions, I do know that my journey is for better, not for worse. I realize that it involves the second definition of the word crisis: “turning point.”

I agree with what Susan Felch stated in her tenure statement written in 1998. She wrote that Christian scholars may have to work three times harder than non-Christian scholars. She said that, firstly, we need to understand our discipline through “a close, empathetic look” at various concepts and perspectives. Secondly, she added that we need to reflect and evaluate these concepts and perspectives in the light of Scripture, which requires the development of our own “theological acuity.” She did not stop at these two challenges. She proposed that we should be able to sophisticate our critiques and suggest solutions as Christian scholars.

I spent time reflecting on Felch’s three challenges. I think I did quite well with the first challenge. I think I have worked very hard not only to understand disciplinary concepts and theories but also to advance them through publications and presentations. I thought I took the second challenge, but my effort had been minimal. I have not written anything on this matter, which clearly indicates dullness of my theological acuity. Therefore, Felch’s third challenge wasn’t even a consideration. However, all her three challenges have become my academic tasks as a Christian scholar!

Re-defining Intellectualism

To take Felch’s challenges, I need to evaluate and reflect on major theories and concepts in my own discipline. Unless I examine them from a Christian perspective, I am not sure what I will be doing for my research and what I will be teaching my students. Wolterstorff noted that “… the calling of the Christian scholar is to practice scholarship in Christian perspective and to penetrate to the roots of that scholarship with which she finds herself in disagreement, along the way appropriating whatever she finds of use”. I need to penetrate to the roots and find the areas where I agree and disagree and why. I don’t think Satan has distorted all truths, but tweaked some of them. Perhaps, my task is to develop a filtering intellectual system (perhaps, theology) to discern various concepts and theories. Re-orienting and re-developing my research program should evolve naturally as my filtering system becomes more sophisticated. Until then, I need to walk in faith, which leads to my next point.

Plantinga stated that “To love God intellectually is to become a student of God—a student who really takes an interest in God.” Developing a filtering system involves examining Scripture prudently and diligently. In addition to the Bible, I also need to read other articles and books written by Christian brothers and sisters. Perhaps, I need to attend various workshops and conferences that help me sharpen my theological acuity.

Developing a filtering system also involves redefining intellectualism. Plantinga also noted that “Anti-intellectualism is the sin of lazy people or of fearful people who content themselves with first simplicities and who resist the pain it takes to grow beyond them.” Calvin College certainly expects less on scholarly output. Unless my mind is tied to Christ, I may easily be relaxing in my scholarly endeavors. Thus, Plantinga’s definition of anti-intellectualism serves as an excellent admonishment to me.

Plantinga did not stop smashing my wrong ideas on intellectualism. He also used the terms “selfish intellectualism,” “worldly intellectualism,” and “idolatrous intellectualism.” When I read these words, I was able to label my past scholarship, and repent. Loving scholarship, he then said, is “the antidote to proud scholarship and to envious scholarship and to angry scholarship—and to all the other deadly sins of scholarship”. Through the Kuiper Seminar, I have experienced a crisis due to losing what I had before, but not yet obtaining new directions yet.

Questions to Explore

As we are ending the Kuiper Seminar, I will continue to explore the following questions alone and with others.

How am I going to use existing concepts and theories with my heart deeply dedicated to God?

How can I establish a filtering process that neither cuts off the essential things nor allows to pass any of the hidden anti-Biblical implications?

How does a Reformed worldview resonate with my own research area?

What are the tension points between a Christian worldview and my discipline?

What unique opportunities does my discipline present to the Christian scholars who practice it?

Walking and Working Together with Calvin Colleagues

To each of us God has given different gifts for building up His Kingdom. Within the scholarly organ of the Christ's body, I should realize that there is a diversity of gifts. As other Christian scholars noted, these gifts are not merely dissimilar, but complementary, and we need to work together to build up His Kingdom. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, used a metaphor of “grits” to explain the community: “Christian is a plural thing. To follow Jesus is to be part of a community”. I have met numerous colleagues at Calvin. I heard some important ideas from them. Among these words, two words/ideas stand vivid and never leave me: Humility and togetherness. I would like to walk with our colleagues to build God’s Kingdom and work together to see God’s grace in our work.

What’s Next?

Where would you like to be in two years? To be honest, I don't know exactly what my future holds. However, I do know the One who holds our future in His hands. And I know that He is good, and He is faithful. I just have to obey Him every day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

10 Commandments for Christian Professors

After submitting a grant proposal yesterday, I have felt much relaxed today (at least until now). I thought I needed to get back to the book I have been writing. As I was surfing various web pages to look for some information, I ran into an article entitled "10 Commandments for the Workplace," which came from the following source: "How to be a Godly Employee based on the Ten Commandments By Drew M. Crandall, Northeast Christians at Work." As I was reading it, I said "Amen" to all item, and also realized how many times I have violated some of them. Without proper permission from the author, I changed some words to translate better to Christian Professors. Plus, I also replaced the content in the fourth commandment with the scripture as the original content did not fit well with academic world. So here you go!

1. Trust in God only.
Trust in no one but God. People will disappoint you. God created you, He loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life. He is too good to do wrong, and too wise to make a mistake, even when the “fur is flying.” Let His peace abide in you. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

2. Worship God only.
Don’t make your career, your university/college/program, or your administrator a god. If you do, you will provoke Him to jealousy and will end up fighting Him. In fact, He may hinder you from achieving what you want until you are broken of the idolatry. (Exodus 20:5)

3. Use God's name reverently.
Don’t swear! Clean words come out of a clean heart. If your non-Christian colleagues know you’re a Christian, but they hear the Lord’s name used in vain, cursing and swearing coming out of your mouth, you will give the appearance of being a hypocrite. (Matthew 15:17-19)

4. Work six days and rest on the seventh.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work (e.g., preparing your lectures, grading papers, writing manuscripts, etc), but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.... For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-10a)

5. Respect your administrators.
You should respect your administrators, because you don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Plus, your ultimate boss is the Lord. Serve Him faithfully on the job, and He will bless you! However, if your administrators command you to do something illegal or immoral, you must make a stand and obey God rather than men. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

6. Protect and respect human life.
Emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical manipulation, abuse, and violence have no place on campus…or any place. You do not have the right to use and abuse your administrators, your colleagues, support staff, or your students. (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)

7. Be true to your spouse.
If you’re not getting the kind of attention and affection that you feel you deserve at home, it’s common to seek it with someone at work. Honor your wedding vows by avoiding campus romances! They are very real, very tempting, and very common. They’re also very wrong and very destructive. (Matthew 19:8-9)

8. Don't take what belongs to others.
Stealing at work can take many forms. You can choose to steal materials, money, time, productivity, and joy from your employer, co-workers, customers, and suppliers. Don’t remove your integrity by stealing. (2 Corinthians 7:1-2)

9. Do not lie about others.
Do not fabricate stories about your administrators or colleagues or support staff, and spread gossip for the sake of politics. You’re here to be salt and light, not pepper and darkness! Truth always rises to the surface, and eventually you will be ashamed and rebuked if you lie. (2 Peter 2:10-13)

10. Be satisfied with what you have.
Contentment doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue God-given goals…but it does mean that you’re content with what He has provided you with day by day. Contentment is a rare quality in today’s culture…but it is extremely liberating! Materialism, striving for rank, and discontent leads to emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual bondage. (1 Timothy 6:6-11)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Preparing for a new semester

Unlike my former institutions, we as faculty members at Calvin College prepared ourselves for a new semester with "Fall Conference." We met at the chapel; all faculty and staff members were invited. I sat with Glen, my colleague who has been retired (I am actually his replacement). As I stepped into the chapel, I immediately thought of my first time visiting this place during the interview. As soon as I stepped into this place back then, I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that the chapel was a place I could run to meditate and pray.

Andy DeJong, our chaplain, invited us to the worship by saying: "Be still, be still... be still, and know that I am God." Be still? I asked. You (God) knew that I have had restless days to prepare syllabi, adjust to this new environment, prepare sermons to lead two-day retreat tomorrow, and other incomplete tasks. I could calm myself down when I get some of these things done, but not now, LORD. I really need to get things done. I am not quite prepared for tomorrow and new semester; plus, my daughter needs to see a doctor today, and I am stuck in the chapel. Provost and other colleagues made quick presentations, but my mind wasn't there.

At that moment, Lee Hardy, a colleague in Philosophy, walked to the podium and explained something. I was still ruminating other things and I could not quiet myself to listen to him carefully. However, I heard him saying that he wrote the text with other colleagues and someone else composed a song. So it seemed that Lee Hardy was introducing the text he wrote. I found that the text was printed in the handout:

LORD, to You Our Hand and Heart We Offer (title)

We stand in the grand arena of God, the Glorious One!
LORD help this academy demonstrate the wisdom of Your ways
The law of the LORD is perfect, informing all we do;
Word of Life for all,
Help for those who fall, guiding the way through the cross to truth and peace.

LORD, open our eyes to see you in nature's hand I work,
to marvel at how your hand leads in all of human history.
Renew our minds, O Spirit, so oft with darkness filled;
Flood our work with light
to re-create our sight, so we may serve as the steward of your world


LORD, to You our hands and hearts we offer
Keep us faithful to your call, we pray
With the rigor of our minds--
We'll serve you all our best for you!

LORD, to You our hands and hearts we offer;
Keep us faithful to your fall, we pray
Guide us in the work that brings your Kingdom, as we rest in you!

I wasn't sure how they came up with this text. However, I did know that the text pointed to our logo (see the second pic above). A music professor sang first to help us learn the song for a person like me. As she sang, each word somehow reminded me of the sleepless night when I finally accepted Calvin's offer. After a long wrestling on that night, I realized that it was God's call to serve Calvin College that I had to offer my heart, intellect, experience, family, and anything I had.

With this song/text, I was able to remember the call. Yes, I was supposed to be still there and know that the One who called me to this place was God. With this realization, my heart and mind got really quiet; I was able to be still... and know that He (who called me) is God. I left the chapel with peace, confidence, and humility.

LORD, I exalt YOU. Please continue to help me remember your call.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We'll have final exam soon!

... We will miss you... but we won't miss finals...Hummmm!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The last class at Indiana University

I don't remember exactly how I felt during the first day of class at Indiana University. It was nine years ago, and it was an undergraduate class. I had almost 180 students in class. What I still remember are students' faces. They looked uncertain, curious, disappointed, uninterested, tired, etc. I have been really curious about students' first impression on me. While no single student would be amazed by my good looking face, they might wonder about this professor who has an Asian face and speaks strong Korean accent. Some students might be tempted to drop the class. Other students might think that their instructor might be one of the Bruce Lee's cousins who may give them some tips for nice side kicks.

I really cannot guess what students thought of me in my first class at IU. I never asked about it. However, I can easily talk about my last class at IU, since it happened a few days ago. It was one of the graduate classes entitled "Introduction to Research Methods" and students came from applied health sciences, kinesiology, and recreation. I had a few PhD students, too. As this was one of the distance learning classes, we also filmed the lectures and sent DVD to distance learning students.

At the end of 2 hours and 30 minutes lecture (we used to take 10 min break), I was expecting that students would leave the room like a bullet. On that last day, students did not leave and they smiled at me. I felt really awkward. As I did not have dinner before the class, I was thinking of eating a delicious Korean meal at home. In my mind, I was exclaming: "please let me go!!!"

As Katie, one of doctoral students in athletic training, brought pizza into the studio (the classroom), students were clapping their hands (probably due to their excitement for pizza or freedom from me...). All of sudden, students expressed their appreciations and passed me a thank-you card (I was able to see all the names and signatures of the students!). Before I ate pizza, I paused for giving thanks to the LORD for food. As I opened my eyes, I began to hear a song entitled "To sir with love." Everybody was quiet and encouraged me to hear the song. When I heard the following lyric, I cried. I could not control it.
"... And as I leave I know that I am leaving my best friend. A friend who taught me right from wrong and weak from strong, that's a lot to learn. What what can I give you in return? If you wanted the moon I would try to make a star. But I would rather you let me give my heart To sir with love..."

Why did I cry? I don't know. I was thankful to the LORD who has blessed me to become a teacher and let me serve students. Well, I am thinking now that I cried because the pizza was so delicious. Students said "Dr. Lee, we are eating the best pizza in town." Yes, that's why I cried.

A couple days later, one student sent e-mail to all students with attachment files: all the pictures we took. In his e-mail, he wrote: "It was a very good event and I hope it will be in everyone's memory for long time..." Another student replied: "... The party was a great way to honor our professor who has touched all of our lives with his knowledge, passion for teaching, his positive encouragement and the way he lives his faith by example..." I cried again. Why? I did not have that delicious pizza in front of me, and that's why!

With this posting, I am bragging. Don't get me wrong, though. I am not bragging about myself. I am bragging about my LORD who has blessed me as a teacher, gave me joy of teaching, and entrusted me this wonderful group of students to serve. I love you, LORD!