More Than Serving Tea


Lessons From a Sunday School Song

Jesus loves the little children.

All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

After the past few weeks, I’m beginning to believe we haven’t really learned much about one another beyond lyrics.

Imagine the little white child handing the black child a slice of watermelon while trying to speak Ebonics.

Or the little white child handing the yellow child a piece of wood while asking her to karate chop it in half while using an “Asian” accent.

Or the little white child handing the red child a feather while pretending to use a tomahawk and making “Indian warrior” noises with his hand on his mouth.

And all of this happening in front of the church during a Sunday service.

Never mind that so few of us, myself included, attend a church where that is the norm Sunday after Sunday (and where are the brown kids?). Just picture it.

It would be a little…um…weird…uncomfortable…awkward…inappropriate. How would you describe what you are feeling?

Now imagine all of these little children of the world growing up and showing up at church, and during the passing of the peace you watch a white person come up to me, an Asian American woman, and speak to me in a fake Asian accent.

What would your reaction be? What would you be feeling or thinking? Would you do anything? Should you do anything?

***Now, this exact scenario has not happened to me. At least, not yet. But who knows. The Church has a strange track record on taking one step forward and a leap backwards. Look up Rickshaw Rally – a vacation Bible school curriculum. Or Deadly Viper – a Christian leadership book and movement taken down by a small “online activist group”. Or…never mind.

After the past few weeks, I’m beyond feeling weird, uncomfortable, and awkward. Please, dear readers, don’t be afraid. Invite others to join us here. I promise, I may be angry, frustrated, hurt, and confused, but I won’t bite. I promise.

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Rice Pudding and Other Cross-cultural Adventures as an Outsider

I eat a lot of rice – white, brown, sweet, wild, steamed, fried, with Spam, and with kimchee. It’s “just” rice, rice cakes, rice noodles, rice crackers, rice porridge. When I buy rice it is not in a box. It is in a 20# bag, which I empty into my rice dispenser. The rice cooker (mine plays a song) takes up precious countertop, right next to the toaster oven and the coffee grinder. I have spoons for serving rice.

But until Sunday I had never had rice pudding, and I didn’t know you could eat it with lingonberries. The occasion was my church’s 35th anniversary. My family has been there for at least 5 of those years. The festive, celebratory mood was obvious, and knowing that my church has been such a key place for so many throughout the years continues to give me hope that I too will feel a deeper sense of belonging in the years to come.

But I get impatient, and I get cranky. And I wonder if it’s OK that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week for Christians because on Sunday I really felt like the best I could do was eat and leave. I had to ask what “that dish” was, which I learned was rice pudding. I recognized the salmon and the ham & rolls. Thanks to my mom’s days at Motorola I recognized versions of broccoli salad and jello salad. And thanks to Ikea my boys and I recognized the meatballs and lingonberry as well as the blue and yellow. I felt like a guest at my own church.

I’ve been told by others that I am not alone, and that it takes time. But when you are in the moment(s), time is not what I want to give.

It was a homecoming for many, but it was another cross-cultural adventure for me. I felt so outside inside of my own church, and I am still wrestling with how I as a regular attender can engage well when on most Sundays my family and I stand out.  Our traditions are not part of the present or the past, and we are still trying to find our way to places to impact the present and future. I don’t want to get rid of the rice pudding or meatballs, but I really do think potstickers and seaweed would go well with the salmon.

Because it is in the breaking of bread (or breaking out the rice in its many versions) and in the act of fellowship amongst sisters and brothers in faith we should find that the differences matter because there is space to delight in the variety, creativity and abundance that is from God. Look around. God doesn’t paint all the leaves one shade yellow. Our differences don’t define us; our Creator does.

But that’s easy to say when no one is there to point out the differences and say “we celebrate God’s goodness this way, with this food, with these people”. At the last church we were a part of, we wrestled with the same issue. The church was started specifically for second-generation Korean American youth who were growing up in immigrant, Korean-speaking churches. (And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, please ask for a longer explanation because I would welcome that.) The youth grew up, got married to Koreans and non-Koreans. We had children. We celebrated milestones with kimbap, Korean-style wings, jjap-chae, and dduk. And we assumed everyone would know what it all was and would enjoy it because that is how we all celebrate. And we were wrong.

And so I take a deep breath and discover that rice pudding is OK (better with the lingonberries) though I prefer rice cakes or the meatballs. Because the idea of creating an inviting and welcoming space isn’t limited to Sundays and a church.


Pickled Herring & Breakfast For Dinner

No, I am not making this up. This is why one step at a time I am learning to love my church.

Last night was our annual Family Advent Night – a fun night of gathering together to do a family craft and eat breakfast for dinner. My kids have learned to love having breakfast for dinner. Seriously, who wouldn’t love being offered the choice of plain or CHOCOLATE CHIP pancakes for dinner?

So having breakfast for dinner was one of those cross-cultural experiences that happened over time – trips to IHOP or Denny’s late at night/early in the morning after some dancing at Medusa’s during my high school years, trips to Omega late at night/early in the morning after studying or formal in college. But that wasn’t really eating breakfast for dinner. It was having second breakfast. But, it was a primer for this Korean-American girl who would eat rice and kimchi jigae for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she could.

In addition to breakfast for dinner was a special delivery for M – his jar of pickled herring that I’m going to guess he bought at our church’s summer missions silent auction. M sat down and with the same look on his face that I have when I’m sitting down to a meal I know I am going to enjoy, he opened his jar of herring. For background sake, I attend an Evangelical Covenant Church – a denomination with deep Swedish roots. No, not “Hey, I like Ikea” Swedish (I love those meatballs) but Swedish. And maybe, for some at my  church, so much so that they don’t know how Sweden and its values and traditions have been integrated into church and life until someone like me shows up and wonders what the deal is with pickled herring and hymns sung in Swedish and Advent candles in blue (is that Swedish?) and coffee at night and respectfully restrained worship.

Back to the herring.

Truth be told, I’ve heard of pickled herring but until last night I had never actually seen it. And while I’ve known folks who have offered me arroz con pollo, pan tres leches, collard greens, lumpia, pho and chicken feet there are other foods, like pickled herring, I’ve never had the opportunity to see or taste.

Which is why I am so grateful that M offered me a taste of his pickled herring because food, and the food of my people and of your people, is such a part of we are, and how we live, etc. Food can tell the stories of why our ancestors ate what we eat, values, land, traditions. It doesn’t define us, but food certainly is a part of who we are. Even authors of the Bible shared stories of  and with manna, milk and honey, unleavened bread and water and wine.

So I tried the herring. Not bad. Personally I think it would have gone great with some rice and kimchi (pickled spicy cabbage), but that’s just me. What I loved is that we broke bread (pancakes, sausage, fruit and pickled herring) and shared a sort of communion in a most unconventional way but hours later is still leaving my soul deeply connected to God and the beauty, diversity and richness of His creation and His people.

 

 


The Sex Talk Lady Is Back

This post is going to generate a ton of spam.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel to discuss sex, specifically on the topic “Respecting Sex and Reducing Abortion: What Can Churches Really Do?”  I was reluctant to accept the invitation for a variety of reasons including fear of putting at least one foot in my mouth, fear of digging a hole large enough to discredit me but not large enough to sink into and disappear, fear of looking and sounding like the least experienced expert and the potential scheduling acrobatics for me and my husband so that we had morning coverage on the home front. However, the sex talk lady is back.

Let me first explain the nickname. A few years ago I took on several campus speaking opportunities – every single one on the topic of sex and sexuality. I suppose writing the chapter on sexuality in More Than Serving Tea and also helping lead a weekend college student training module entitled “Christians, Sex and Intimacy” for several years had helped shape my reputation as a Christian woman who was not afraid to talk about sex, faith, ethnicity, gender, sin, failure, guilt, pleasure and hope. It was during that crazy year of sex talks that I had the opportunity to speak at Wheaton College during chapel on the subject of sex. That’s right. Wheaton College. Chapel. Sex. The sophomore class, I believe, invited me back to do a Q & A, and the promotional flyers and posters said it all: The Sex Talk Lady is Back.

When it comes to the topic of sexuality (not so much abortion, though I will certainly address the issue on the panel) my hope is for church leaders to understand that the Church can do and must do a better job teaching a theology of sexuality that acknowledges and encourages understanding and thoughtful engagement with the cultures around us and the realities we face. And as a parent of both a daughter and sons, I cannot leave the topic of sexuality and the ongoing conversations up to the youth pastors, health ed teachers and pop culture.

Because in reality repeating the line I heard in church – “Don’t have premarital sex” – did not prepare me well to deal with the warm fuzzies I felt after watching those Hollywood rom-coms and definitely after my first french kiss. Sure, the script kept running in my head (Kathy, remember, premarital sex is bad. JESUS IS WATCHING!) but NO ONE TOLD ME that the script in my head would have to compete with nerve endings I did not know would fire and feel that way and the emotions that became enmeshed with those physical experiences. All I heard was “sex is bad” and then I walked away feeling like “I was bad”. And then, for awhile, it was easier to just walk away.

I could rant on and on, but I won’t because this morning I have a list of things I must, must, must get done. However, I would again appreciate hearing from all of you. Please, be respectful of one another’s opinions, which may differ from yours. Please.

What, if anything, can the churches do to respect sex and reduce abortion? Should churches be doing anything at all? What did you learn about sex, sexuality and abortion at church and how has that helped (or not) you understand and respect sex? If you could help shape and change the message your church is sending about sex, sexuality and/or abortion how would you do it and what would that message be?


A Little Star By Your Name

We have been at our church for almost three years, and we still do not have a star beside our names. Granted, it took us several months before we felt like we should have a church directory and then another few months to notice the stars. Technically, they aren’t stars. They are asterisks, but a star evokes sweet memories of attendance charts and shiny gold star stickers. Stars meant you were special. You counted. You’re in. You’re a member.

Church membership is still a fairly “new” concept for me. I grew up in church, but from a child’s perspective membership meant being in long meetings where elders argued with other elders. I’m sure there were other things involved in membership, but no one at church never emphasized or brought up the idea of membership. We were always the “kids” for whom the Korean-speaking “adults” were building the foundations of the church so that one day the kids would take over. The problem often is that the adults never see the kids as adults and the transfer or sharing of power and responsibility never really happens, IMHO.

Peter and I actually can’t remember exactly how we became members at our last church. It was a church that I had attended throughout college, and we returned to it after we had moved closer to home and had our first child. Maybe I had been grandfathered in and then Peter was voted in after the church set up a more formal structure with by-laws, vision statement and website. What I remember were the meetings and many conversations about plans, budgets, and proposals. I do remember throughout a series of meeting involving our pastoral staff, positions and salaries, I grew increasingly aware that I had finally become an adult in a church. The budget, how people’s offerings and tithes – some sacrificial, others afterthoughts and all God’s – were being used, saved and stewarded mattered and members were being asked to prayerfully consider the matters at hand. When a family asked for their child to be dedicated we, the members, pledged to participate in the spiritual development and nurture of that child.

After leaving that church almost five years ago, our goal was not church membership. Our goal was to find a place where we could rest, heal, and hopefully fall in love with Jesus’ bride – the Church – again.

Since then we have slowly gotten gotten the hang of things here at what/where/whom we now call “our church” – the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer (“debts” and “debtors” not “trespasses” and “trespass”), stand to sing the “Doxology” after the offering is taken, the awkward “Passing of the Peace”, etc. We’ve gotten to know a few folks and even completed the pre-membership class. But we never took what I suppose is the next step.

We initially waited because we didn’t “feel” like we were really part of the church. Our kids were finding friends much faster than we were, but isn’t that usually the case? The barriers, excuses and awkwardness in the transition between complete strangers becoming acquaintances becoming friends have grown for me over time and age. We tried to “feel” our way through serving and putting ourselves out there in the front, the narthex, the behind-the-scenes – music, drama, dance, magic tricks and coffee, and we have come to this place where we are willing to sit in the tension of knowing what we hope for – deep friendships and rich community that overflows – is not quite where we are at…yet.

So are we ready to make the plunge and become members? Do we want to become, should we become, is it time to become members and gain more, risk more, invest more and be responsible for more than a star by our names?


Adventures in Parenting and Life 101 Because I’m Always Learning: Scheduling

This morning was set aside to calendar.  Yes, calendar as in the verb in relationship to the noun form. Me, my latte and my calendars cozied up now that my iCal and iPhone is synced with a Google calendar (we are a cross-computer platform family where PC and Mac must lovingly and painstakingly co-exist in forced harmony) for a morning of new events, mapping out future childcare needs and plans for cloning when two parents and three children are supposed to be at different places at the same time.

I’m certain that my parents had some method to their madness, but it really wasn’t quite as full and weighty as what we/I make life out to be now. My parents didn’t have the money to afford all of the activities – tae kwon do, magic class, owl pellets class, ballet class, pointe class, modern dance class – that fill up my evenings and weekends. The priorities were school and church and anything beyond that was gravy. We took Korean language classes, which I think were free through the church and then priceless when we stopped going to a class and my mother would simply buy the books, make photocopies and make us do the worksheets during the summer months, and piano lessons, which for me gave way to a few years of flute lessons. There was little space, money or felt need for summer camp, swimming lessons or sports camp because for many years we were latch-key kids who learned to float well after I had mastered my multiplications tables and long division and yet learned early on that competitive sports were not in our future.

My parents didn’t know they needed to carry around their digital calendars. I remember my mom having a small paper organizer and the house always had free calendars from the bank, back when banks gave customers toasters, calendars and lollipops, and the Korean grocery store, which still give out free calendars. But they also didn’t know what we weren’t getting to do because they were too busy trying fairly successfully to provide for us more than they had had.

These days in my affluent suburban existence I can parent through my issues – swimming lessons because dammit my kids will be stronger swimmers than I am and tae kwon do or dance classes and the occasional tennis or golf lesson because life is too short to not have a brief introduction to a “life long sport” they can carry into their retirement years.

I am not alone in my angst. The bar is higher and more competitive for college, and at Bethany’s high school orientation I began to hyperventilate (maybe it was those crazy strobe lights and lasers during the slideshow) at all that the “average” kid has to do – academics and extra-curricular – to be college-worthy. No study hall so she can get in an extra elective, but how will she manage the course load with her classes if she keeps up with dance or takes on other extra-curriculars? Or keep the study hall so she has extra time during the day to get the extra work done, but will her overall academic course load be enough? The calendar feels heavier just thinking about it.

At least she’s never heard the “Why don’t you have all A’s? Why isn’t this B+ or A- an A” talk.

And it’s not even just the parenting part of scheduling. Have you ever watched a group of adult friends try to schedule a night out or an extended family try to plan a trip together? My girlfriends and I have been talking about celebrating our 40th birthdays at some spa, but the first round of e-mails were rather amusing. We are very, very busy (but so help me if it means celebrating after we all turn 40 we are going to do this!).

I’m grateful to be alive, deeply grateful for the opportunities, access, ability to have and do so much but sometimes it feels a little out of control.

For awhile we had a rule: each kid was limited to one activity. But then we started fudging our way around that one with band because technically it was at the school, during and after school so it didn’t feel completely like an extra activity. And then Bethany made the poms squad, which was related to her dance classes. And then youth group/confirmation/Wednesday night Kids’ Club was extra but also important so we made room. And so on, and so on, and so on. I was hoping my youngest would try baseball, mainly so I could hang out with the other moms during practices and games, but he wanted no part in another activity no matter how much he could learn from being on a team sport. Sometimes, our kids are so incredibly wise.

Everyone has a system. Mine has evolved over the years as DINKs became parents of one, two and then three. My trusty Franklin Planner gave way to copying everything onto a wipe board. Now I am completely electronic with five color coordinated calendars that Peter and I can now sync online relatively seamlessly. A printed copy goes on the fridge so the kids can check to see if a sleepover will conflict with a family event.

So how do you get through it? How do you manage and schedule your time and, if you have a family, your family’s and family time so that everyone doesn’t need a clone and resent you?


From Death to Life Through the Elias’ Eyes

Last Sunday Elias came out of Children’s Church with a tombstone. It was supposed to be a replica of the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb, and on the stone the children were supposed to write what they were thankful for this Easter.

My heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw what Elias had written:

“Getting through two seizures in one day”

Where is the innocent thankfulness for chocolate eggs?

To add to my shock, Elias added a drawing after the incomplete sentence – a smiley face, a circle that he had colored in which looked like an exaggerated dot or period, and then another smiley face.

Someday I will explain to him how amazingly accurate his picture story was…It was a beautiful Tuesday in June four years ago – a friend took some amazing photographs of Elias smiling and playing in the open fields at Cedar Campus. By Wednesday, Elias had literally gone dark – just like the circle he had colored in – clinging to life, intubated, on a ventilator with nothing for us to do but pray and cry. Two hospitals, a team of doctors and specialists, a battery of tests and we still had no answers. There was nothing to do but wait. By Thursday morning, Elias was back to smiling though still regaining his fine and gross motor skills.

It was nothing short of a miracle. And for that miracle we are thankful.

Smiley face. Dark circle. Smiley face.

For some reason, the pattern makes me think of Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Resurrection Sunday.

I can smile on Good Friday because I know how the story ends, just like I can smile now because I know how that week in June ended for Elias. I know that in the midst of Christ’s suffering there remains the shadow of hope that grows and groans.

But as we wait to celebrate Easter, there is the dot – a pause button, if you will, filled and empty with silence, stillness, grief, waiting, and certainty because once again we know how the story ends, just like there was certainty for me in the hospital and the life flight to Ann Arbor and in the PICU even if in that moment we didn’t know how the short-term would end. Certainly God was with me and with Elias and with Peter and our other two children and our friend Andrea and her two children who traveled with Peter while I flew with Elias. I was and remain certain of it. Certainly God is in the silence and in the in between.

And I smile this morning having been greeted by Elias’ smile and signature, “Oh, Mom!” He doesn’t remember the seizures or the emergency medical flight to Ann Arbor. He doesn’t remember the spinal tap, the multiple scans of his brain and body. He doesn’t remember so much because his life had momentarily gone dark, just like that circle he had colored in. He remembers to be thankful and he really lives life like a celebration.

This Easter I have been reminded by my youngest child to be thankful for the smiles and everything in between. Even the circles that have been colored in with darkness because I am certain.

He is risen. Indeed.


Zondervan’s Next Steps

Stan Gundry, executive vice president and editor in chief at Zondervan, is the one and so far only person to respond to the e-mail I sent out earlier this month. Now, I’m not naive about business, PR and marketing. The DV incident could have been a lot uglier, but it didn’t get nearly as ugly as it could have gotten. But for the grace of God…I’m grateful for Mr. Gundry’s and Zondervan’s response sent to me March 19.

Yes, Kathy, I suppose it seems that Zondervan has gone silent since the events of last November. But we still are focused on the issues raised at that time. Here is a quick overview of what has been happening at Zondervan and of the direction in which we are headed.

  • Our President/CEO, Moe Girkins purchased copies of The Next Evangelicalism by Professor Rah and made it required reading for all members of the Zondervan Leadership Team. The book was the subject of major discussion at our January Leadership Team retreat with action items identified to assure that we do not make the same or similar mistakes again in the editing, design, and marketing of any of our products. In terms of the visual presentation of our titles from all product groups, procedures are in place to consult with a cross-section of representatives of appropriate ethnic groups to assure that visual representations are ethnically diverse and that we avoid caricatures and stereotyping that are offensive or demeaning of members of any ethnic, national, or socio-economic class. Our editors and publishers as well are giving appropriate attention to these issues.
  • In January, Professor Rah gave an address at the Calvin College January series. Moe Girkins and I attended the lecture, and at least two other highly placed people at Zondervan were in attendance. Moe and I were also invited guests to the Luncheon with Professor Rah after the address. We had a brief but cordial private conversation with him there, as well as taking part in the round table discussion over lunch. We think this laid a good foundation for future discussions and consultation with Professor Rah and other Asian American Christian leaders. A high priority for me and our publishing team is to follow up with Professor Rah in Chicago in the next 2 or 3 months.
  • Just two weeks ago, Moe Girkins met Bing Goei at breakfast event here in Grand Rapids at Cornerstone University, and last week, she was the special guest of Mr. Goei and his wife at the “First Annual Asian Gala.” Over the years we feel we have done a good job of networking with the African American and Latin American communities. But honestly, Asian Americans have not been on our radar screen, but this sort of thing will now be a high priority for us.
  • We acknowledge that Asian Americans are not well represented among our employees, and in the current economic climate, new and replacement hires are at a minimum. Nevertheless, rectifying the under-representation of Asian Americans is a priority for us, and as we establish relationships with Asian American leaders like Mr. Goei, we are asking them to refer to Zondervan qualified Asian American individuals who share the Zondervan mission and values.
  • While Zondervan has a good track record of publishing African American authors and a very active Spanish-language publishing division (Vida) that serves Hispanic authors, Christians, and churches in North, Central, and South America, we acknowledge that we have not given sufficient attention to searching out and providing a publishing platform for Christian leaders and potential authors in the Asian American community. We already have and will continue to take steps in the immediate future to rectify that situation.
  • With the shift of the center of gravity for evangelical Christian world from the “North Atlantic ” English-speaking world to the “Majority  World,” we believe that our publishing program also needs to reflect this kind of diversity. We want to give Christian leaders in the Majority World a platform and we in North America need to hear their perspective on our common faith and on the issues of the day. We continue to  actively search for Christian voices to publish from the Majority World, with a number of significant projects signed and in the “pipeline.” Perhaps you are already aware of the Hippo Books imprint we share with a consortium of African publishers, publishing Christian African scholars and leaders, and of the Africa Bible Commentary, a one volume commentary on the Bible written entirely by African evangelical scholars. We have similar commentaries under contract from other parts of the Majority World, and we are exploring the possibility of more.

Kathy, thank you for your interest. Our on-going goal at Zondervan is that who we are and what we do will better reflect the diversity of Revelation 5:8-10 and Galatians 3:26-28.

Stan Gundry

Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief


Passing Up A Chance of a Lifetime For A Chance of a Lifetime

I am an expert in kicking myself in the butt. For those of you who live life without regrets, this is not the blog post for you, friend. My life has been messy and beautiful and full of poor choices and better choices shaded by the inability to make decisions. I am grateful for the moments of perfect clarity and timing, but those are few and far between.

Some of those decisions rank low in the “change my life” category, like the beautiful red coat I spotted on the rack, tried on, considered buying and then decided against it hoping it would go on sale. The coat went on sale but out of stock in my size. That was more than 20 years ago, and every now and then I’ll kick myself in the butt for being practical to a fault (how many coats does a girl need?).

Other decisions are weightier . Will I stay home and put my career on hold when we start having children? How will we care for aging parents? How will we choose a church?

So when two opportunities of a lifetime vied for prime real estate on my calendar this fall I found myself in a familiar place – full of gratitude and momentarily full of whining.

Opportunity #1: to be home to see our children (and myself) through a major transition. This fall our oldest child is headed to high school. (Yes, I know. I don’t look old enough to have a child in high school. Yes, time has gone by quickly. Yes, she is nervous and Peter and I are too.)  This fall our second child is headed to middle school. (Yes, we’re a little nervous. We’re not sure if he’s nervous, but neither is he.) And, our youngest, will be in 3rd grade and not have an older sibling at school. (Yes, he is excited and nervous, and so are we.)

Opportunity #2: to be one of 4,000 leaders from around the world to attend the Third Lausanne Congress, Cape Town 2010.

I know. Poor me.

I was honored & humbled to be invited to participate, and amazed at the opportunity to be a part of an international discussion on the critical issues we are facing and how they relate to the future of the Church. This was never in the career plans.

But after the thrill came the realities of the opportunity, the largest hurdle was time. Saying “yes” to #1 meant seeing my family through a once-in-a-lifetime transition, with the possibilities ranging from full of drama to smooth as butter. Saying “yes” to #2 meant being a part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a learn from international leaders and be a part of conversations that have a global impact. Raising money to attend and travel was one thing, but no one was going to be able to give me my time back.

All parents have to make choices weighing the pros and cons, comparing time and money against opportunities gained and lost. I have never been able to separate my statuses as Asian American Christian working mom and wife from one another, and this decision pulled on me in all directions and pushed all the right buttons.

When you say “no” to something, you are leaving open space to say “yes” to other things. That is what I tell other ministry colleagues, friends and even my family. In a culture and society that often screams “more is better”, saying “yes” to every good opportunity makes sense. Seize the moment. Carpe diem. No regrets. The phrases sound good and are wonderfully inspiring, perfect for a bumper sticker or status update.

But reality, at least the whole, big picture of reality, doesn’t fit neatly on a bumper sticker. Saying “no” can feel foolish. Saying “yes” can feel selfish. It’s all so messy, isn’t it?

So, I thought I knew within a week which opportunity to say “yes” to because I saw once-in-a-lifetime one way. It wasn’t wrong, but a month later it didn’t feel right. I needed to let go of some angst, deal with ambition and self-image issues, figure out what space I was going to leave in my life and how to draw the margins.

This fall 4,000 leaders from around the world will gather in Cape Town, South Africa and I will watch Bethany become a high schooler, Corban become a middle schooler, and Elias become a third grader. I will not be discussing issues facing the Church, but I will be discussing scheduling challenges facing a family headed in five different directions. I will not be with thousands of international leaders, but I will be with three future leaders who will probably be running a little late or needing a little help and teaching me a few things about life in the process.

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity I could not pass up.


Responding to Some Sojo Love

My post Asian≠White was cross-posted at Sojourners recently, and there have been some interesting comments that have popped up.

I’m really quite new to this blogging-for-an-audience-of-more-than-20 thing, so I’m learning on the fly about comments, author engagement and such. In the meantime, I decided to keep responses here on my site so as not to confuse myself.

So, in response to some of the comments on Sojourners:

Thank you all for reading. I’ve been reading Sojourners magazine off and on for a few years, ever since my then-supervisor decided he was going to rattle his entire staff team’s faith and understanding of the gospel. Thanks, Big Guns!

@ BlueDeacon – The separation between Asian and American is one of both culture and race/ethnicity. My parents see it from language and culture, but my father often reminds me that I am not American either.

@pcnot4me – You wonder if liberals ever just enjoy life. Hmmm. I guess you’d have to ask one. My liberal friends would say I’m too conservative. My conservative friends would say I’m too liberal. All of my friends would say I do enjoy life. I have a wonderful and complicated life. I have my moments, like when squirrels took over my attic or when my child was near death. Those moments are hard to enjoy.

@facebook-1363553490 – I wonder with you. I have no idea what the question about liberals just enjoying life and the thread that followed had anything to do with my original post. However, if any of the liberals reading the post feel like they should give more to charity, please contact me. I am still raising ministry support.

@NC77 – I do not know what % of AA are Christians. According to the US Census, about 5% of the national population is AA.

@Ballfour – You had several questions. I cut and pasted your comment so readers here will know what I’m talking about.

I have a few specific questions that come to mind from your article. I was hoping you could answer these:
1. What precisely is your “ideal” when it comes down to racial integration in churches?
2. Why would that make the church “better”? (Please don’t answer “because it would be multi-cultural” as that only begs the question as to why multi-culturalism in a church setting would be better).
3. Is there any reason you did not site the thousands of Korean-Christian and/or Chinese-Christian churches in the country that perform services in their native languages and reflective of their cultures? Do you expect them to adapt to hiring “whites” and adopting more “white culture”?

Honestly, I don’t have an “ideal” in mind. My point was to ask why is 20% the threshold and how does a number translate into cultural change. There is a great follow-up interview with David Van Biema, Time magazine’s religion writer and the author of the original magazine article I was reacting to, on UrbanFaith.com explaining a little more about the numbers and why Willow Creek’s numbers are getting the love and attention of Time magazine.

I have lots of feelings all over the map about multiculturalism and how that can and should look in various contexts. I am the product of the immigrant church where there was little to no multiethnicity (except for the occasional Moody Bible student who was hired to teach Sunday School. I do not expect all churches to pursue numeric multiethnicity but at some point in a church’s life I do believe issues of multiethnicty, race and a holistic understanding of justice needs to be addressed.

I did not write about those immigrant or 1st generation churches because that is not what the article is about. I was simply responding to the attention focused on megachurches. I do not expect those 1st generation churches to hire “white” or adopt more White majority culture because to some degree they already do having established themselves here in America. Anyone who has grown up in a 1st generation church will tell you that issues of culture and ethnicity come up because the children growing up in the those churches will face those issues – the classic generational culture gap, if you will.

But if a church publicly states its intentions to pursue multiethnicity, which is what Bill Hybels and WC has done, I do expect them to address not just attendance and membership numbers. I would argue that the culture has to shift, as sociologists would agree, and that the leadership has to shift. It isn’t enough to say that the congregation looks different if we agree that isn’t what we are talking about when we say “multicultural” or “multiethnicity”. Are there songs sung in different styles and languages and the gifts of those cultures and nuances of language addressed? Is communion always wafers and grape juice when rice cakes and tea could also help connect and express the connection between host and blood? Is it always a drum set or can there be a djembe or janggu? Can liturgical dance also draw from 1st Nations’ and folk dancing? We learn so much from one another, and that is why diversity is better. No one culture paints the whole complete picture of God’s kingdom and I am blessed through the diversity of God’s kingdom and creation.