More Than Serving Tea


Is Christianity a Straitjacket?

Would you be interested in getting to know someone if all you knew about her was what she didn’t do?

Christians don’t lie, cheat, steal and gossip about their neighbors. Christians don’t smoke, drink, use illicit drugs, cuss, play cards, dance, watch R-rated movies, read horoscopes or cross their fingers. Christians don’t have premarital sex, but they do have sex only to have babies and not because they actually enjoy having sex. Christians don’t talk about sex unless we can spell out the word and whisper it. Christians don’t like homosexuality but say we would love homosexuals if we actually knew any. Christians don’t believe in a woman’s right to an abortion because if everyone just stopped having premarital sex it wouldn’t be an issue. Christians are suspicious of if not against the public school system, science teachers and curriculum, and sex education in schools. Christians love the Right because they are right.

Sounds like a fun girlfriend, no?

It’s oversimplified and doesn’t take into context how complex religion’s relationship to culture is. And it’s not a completely fair assessment, but, like I tell my kids, life is not fair. If we Christians are honest with ourselves, and I am as a Christian trying to be honest with myself, the oversimplified descriptions are not completely undeserved.

We Christians have a PR problem. For most of my Christian life I have done a fantabulous job of communicating what I am against and somehow forgotten that even as I believe in a perfect God I am not close to perfect. I’m much better at telling another Christian about what I believe than I am at sharing about my faith with someone outside of my faith. I have often forgotten how to live out the love, forgiveness, grace and mercy God pored out on me. Dare I say we have forgotten?

A group of us at church are reading and discussing Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God. Sunday morning’s discussion was on Chapter 3: Christianity is a Straitjacket, and the discussion could have gone on much longer, I suspect. I sat there thinking not only of the friends and family who see Christianity as a straitjacket but of those who have been hurt not by a church building but by those of us who claim our usual Sunday seats inside the building each week. Because when we say we know people who have been hurt by “The Church”, that really means us Christians, not the building or some “Church” out there (I’m waving my hand out over there).

I thought to myself, no, Christianity isn’t a straitjacket, but maybe we should redirect our conversation away from those who aren’t Christians and make that claim to those of us who are Christians and make sure we are not wearing one. Perhaps we’ve already spent enough time telling people what we are against instead of living out what we believe and know to be absolutely true. Maybe? Even a teeny, weeny bit?

Am I kind and compassionate or am I more often than not judgmental? Yes. Do I live and love freely or is my love cheap and stingy and picky? Yes. Do I want God’s grace and forgiveness for myself and forget to extend that to others? Yes.

I have some work to do. Yes.

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Working Mommy=Unhealthier Kids? Work, Parenting, Calling & Roles

I’m always telling my children that they have the “meanest mommy in the whole wide world” but apparently I now have proof that they are pretty lucky kids.

According to a new study out of Britain, researchers have found that children of mothers who work full-time were the unhealthiest of the bunch. The second group of unhealthy kids belonged to part-time working moms.

Why? Because those kids ate more sweets, chips and sweetened drinks in between meals and spent more time than did their stay-at-home-mom-kids counterparts.

Hey, Bethany, Corban & Elias! Stop whining! You may have spending limits on clothing, and restrictions on the types of movies you are allowed to watch, but YOU get more sweets, chips, high fructose corn syrup enhanced drinks & tv/computer time than your friends whose moms do not work outside of the home. I have research to back this up!

I told you you were lucky to have the meanest mommy in the whole wide world!

Studies like this frustrate me to no end. Apparently fathers and their presence or lack thereof is irrelevant. Because their working trends have not changed significantly since the stone ages or so, it is obviously up to women to stay at home and raise healthy children. Razzle, frazzle.

I have worked outside of the home since Bethany was born (minus the first six months of her life when I was recovering from nearly bleeding to death, but that’s another story for another day). I may have been a career-driven 20-something, but when I was holding Bethany, and then Corban and Elias, in my arms I did not care whether or not I would see another byline again.

I have often wondered what it would be like to be a SAHM (stay at home mom) and to never feel that work gets the very best of me on some days while my children get the tired, worn out version of me. I have listened to SAHMs who refer rather wistfully to my “trips” away to exotic destinations like Madison, WI; Champaign-Urbana, IL; and Cedarville, MI. (OK, Seattle and SoCal are better!) What we’ve learned in living the journey together: the grass is always greener on the other side if all you’re doing is looking at the other side.

I’m in my 14th year of parenting with a lifetime to go and thousands of years of Korean American cultural baggage of guilt and shame with a splash of Christian fundamentalism to weigh me down. I do not have the energy nor the desire anymore to take on more false guilt or spend energy frustrated over things I cannot change. That is how I do it.

For those of you moms out there, what have you done to make it “work” for you and your family – whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside of the home? What about your situation has frustrated you or made you feel guilty or even envious of the other side and how have you dealt with it?

And out of curiosity, what do you think? Are kids with SAHMs better off?  Are kids with moms who work outside of the home better off? Does it have to be an either or?


Working Mom Angst – Asian American style

Honestly, I haven’t thought this through. I don’t know how or if my culture has impacted the way I experience working mom angst…I’ve been sitting at my desk trying to get through e-mails, file expense reports, start and finish a prayer letter and listen for the dryer to finish when I realized I forgot to go to school to see my daughter’s gym class dance performance.

Now, before I am absolved of any guilt for not taking 15-minutes out of my work day to run over to the middle school by justifying my absence with the simple fact that my daughter is in MIDDLE SCHOOL and seeing her mother armed with a video camera AND a 35-mm waving from the bleachers isn’t her idea of fun,  I can’t shake the fact that she handed me the note from the teacher inviting parents to view the performance.

My daughter is practicing her “Mom, puhlease” look of slight disdain, embarrassment and awkward separation from her parents. But she gave the me the note and asked if I was going to a meeting or working from home. She still likes me.

I have the blessing, and I really do mean blessing, of a home office and the flexibility to the administrative portion of my job within earshot of my washer and dryer and steps from my espresso maker. My mother (and most of the world) can’t imagine an easier balancing act.

So maybe here is where the Asian American guilt and shame and sorrow (and the swallowing of it all) come into play. In a mere 15 seconds I am wrestling with all of it – wishing I could support my parents, wishing I was actually SuperMom who could remember to run over to the middle school (God, help me remember I’m supposed to be at the grade school at 12:30 to be the reading parent!), wondering if my daughter noticed my absence and wasn’t relieved but sad, hoping that my mistake doesn’t make my parents sad that I don’t take advantage of the luxuries of time that they didn’t have.

Please, I can’t be the only slightly neurotic Asian American working mom, right?


Perfection


There has been some buzz and some media coverage about 9-year-old Lin Miaoke being selected to “sing” during the opening ceremonies in Beijing. They call her the “smiling angel”, but apparently her voice wasn’t as angelic as her face so they dubbed over her voice with that of Yang Peiyi.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to respond. There was some chatter on various blogs and amongst television commentators about the Communist Party’s decision to present a “flawless image”, the pressure for perfection, the “fake” performance.

It was a bit funny to me. It’s easy to point fingers at China and then say how lip-synching (and CGI fireworks) mar the overall quality and impact of the opening ceremonies. Does that mean the opening ceremonies weren’t perfect? 

But then here in America we have “America’s Next Top Model” and “Make Me a Supermodel”, Teen Glamour and Teen Cosmo, etc. Seriously, is it so crazy to believe that the Communists would share the Western world’s obsession with beauty and perfection? I don’t live in a country where party leaders decide what is acceptable in terms of beauty, but I do live in a country where the freedom to choose still leaves women always falling short and in the endless pursuit of perfection.

It’s sad, don’t you think?