#31 – Anger

1 Sep

I don’t remember the details, but someone had wronged me and in vengeful retribution I was giving it back to them. These were some of the many daydreams I would have and still have. I think of arguments and how to “win” them, I think of potential conflicts I might face and how to defeat my opponents.

I remember one time riding on the DC metro, my mind wandered into one of these angry daydreams and I was so lost in it that I caught myself just scowling (or at least it felt like I was) at a stranger in my line of sight.  When I realized what I was doing I quickly changed the expression on my face and looked away.

I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in these kinds of daydreams and thoughts.

Anger is Empowering.

Sometimes it is natural, healthy, and necessary.  For someone who power has been taken away, anger is a way to become empowered again.  For the abuse victim,  the oppressed people,  the marginalized, the bullied, etc.  In some cases, anger is the only way one might have any sense of power.  It can be a part of the therapeutic process to regaining confidence and identity.  It feels like justice.  It’s why we cheer for Zangief kid.

Anger is Intoxicating

But anger isn’t just empowering for the oppressed, it’s empowering for all, and because of that anger can become intoxicating. There is something inherently cathartic about unfiltered ranting and raving.  It’s the reason why we love watching people just rant about stuff.  Because better than just being angry is feeling justified for being angry.

I believe that anger is turning into our nations drug of choice.  After every piece of news it’s like there is a race to who can be the most justifiably angry first.  Then is the second push of why we should be angry at the people who got angry first.  Gabby Douglas, Ryan Lochte, Colin Kaepernick, Lilly King (sorry I watch a lot of sports).  As we are full blown in the information age, all this extra “knowledge” that we gain gives us even more feeling of having the right to be angry and label others as _____ (insert your own adjective here).   And even though there are good and necessary times to express anger we have to understand there is an intoxicating side to the simple act of being angry and feeling justified for feeling angry.  We feed off that.  That’s why it produces ratings.  It’s why so many “reporters” that are popular have their own rant time in their network shows.  We love it.  Get angry is a really great rallying cry because the nature of anger is intoxicating.  You could probably boil down every presidential candidates campaign into a “Get angry at _______” statement.   The reality is that it is really empowering to be in a room full of people who are all angry for the same reason and at the same thing.  Being angry alone isn’t that great, but being angry with others, you will feel alive.  My fear is that we are unwittingly falling in love with being angry.  It is becoming part of the American culture to be righteously indignant about something.  If you aren’t then you’re just misinformed.

Anger can start the conversation but it can’t finish it

I’m in the camp that feelings need to be expressed so that they can be processed.  This isn’t a call to not be angry – that would be unhealthy and ultimately open the door to being consumed by it, but there is a reality that if you stay angry, you will stay stuck.  The work of reconciliation and healing can start with expressions of anger but will not be completed by it. Anger cannot and will not complete the work that only love can.

 

 

 

#30 Dear 5 year old Clarence…

25 Feb

Dear 5 year old Clarence,

You are in kindergarten now and everything seems great, I just wanted to give you some advice from 36 year old Clarence.  These little tips will help you to survive and maybe have a little bit better time.

  1. If you need to go to the bathroom and Mrs. Rosy isn’t calling on you, just run.  Taking a dump in your pants just isn’t cool.  If you do though, blame the smell on someone else farting, kids are gullible and they will probably believe you.
  2. Before picking a fight with another kid, check how long their fingernails are first.  5 year olds don’t punch, they claw, slap, and bite.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the librarian with the weird back brace.  It doesn’t make her a monster.
  4. I know you hate it, but brush your teeth… trust me on this one, your dentist in the future, Dr. Pincock seems nice but has no mercy when it comes to filling cavities.
  5. This isn’t really a tip also but in 22 years, Kevin Durant is going to be playing bball at your school so, i dunno.. that’s cool right?
  6. Wear gloves during halloween, the plastic handle on the pumpkin starts to hurt your hands when it gets heavy with candy.
  7. Another thing about Halloween, get mom to tie your pants more tightly for your karate outfit. Stopping every few steps to pull up your pants is annoying.

Other than that, enjoy this time. Sad to say but this might be the best year you have for a while.  Moving schools next year is going to be quite a shock and things at home are going to start to feel crazy.  Don’t worry too much though, you’ll survive it all.

love,

me, er.. you… us?

 

#29 – The gift the immigrant church doesn’t know it has… pt. 1

4 Feb

Disclaimer – I’m very stream-of-consciousness when I write and therefore this post is simply a launching pad for more thoughts as I reflect on this idea more.

I think that the immigrant church could (should?) take a lead role in on leading the way to cultural (and maybe racial) reconciliation in the United States (globally too but that’s a lot to talk ruminate on.)

Premise 1: The immigrant church experiences cultural conflict deeper than most churches in America can get to.

In seminary I took an elective called intercultural communication or something like that.  It was a primer course for students who wanted to go on the mission field.  Honestly, I didn’t really learn anything.  It wasn’t that the material wasn’t good it was just that I realized everything that was taught was a watered down version of what I’ve lived as part of an immigrant family.  Cultural conflict is a constant within the immigrant church, mainly through the 1st generation and 2nd generation, but now also through the old 1st generation and the new 1st generation as well (at least in Chinese Churches that are still reaching out to mainland Chinese immigrants)  It can feel like everything is a battle sometimes, the way you dress, the friends you have, music, food, which are all the superficial things.  Then come the  differences of values, worship expressions, conflict resolution, hermeneutics, theology, leadership, parenting, finances, etc.

I haven’t been to all multi-ethnic, multi-cultural churches out there, but my guess is few have the pathway to go this deeply into cultural reconciliation.  And fewer would want to!

I used to blame the power holders of the immigrant church, the 1st generation leaders for being unable to navigate this issue.  If only they were more open-minded, if only they were able to listen, if only they were able to be more permissive, if only they would be biblical.  To be honest, I still do mostly, but I’m starting to believe that this is the true messiness of how hard it is to reconcile different cultures with each other, and if you truly wish to bring the unity of the gospel through culture then you will have to go this deep.

Look at how deeply into culture the New Testament authors had to go to help steer the church towards unity?

I believe that cultural reconciliation will look more like what happens in an immigrant church.  It will be messy and long suffering.  People will get hurt, people will get frustrated, people will leave, people will be embittered.  Compromises will not necessarily feel like anyone “wins”.  The immigrant church, I believe, can be a guide.

The problem (one of many) is that you can’t guide someone fully though the valley if you haven’t made it back out and the immigrant church has not figured it all out, at least as far as I know.

But I want to encourage members and pastors in the immigrant church to continually work to reconcile culture deeply through the gospel,  I believe that even the seemingly fruitlessness at times can and will have deep value and an important place at helping the church in North America (and beyond) navigate through cultural reconciliation.

For those outside of the immigrant church I want to encourage you to pay attention to the experiences and wisdom of those who have long suffered for the unity of the gospel across the cultural divide that is found within the immigrant church.  Some of what we experience will be your future if you also embark on a journey of reconciliation between cultures at your church.

 

 

 

#28 -Sabbatical Pt. 1: The beginning

21 Jan

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in ministry 7 years.

On one hand I think “Only 7 years?  It feels like so much longer!”  A part of me thinks of myself as pretty experienced, I’ve learned a lot and I understand my role in my current ministry pretty well.   I chuckle at my 29 year old self just starting full-time ministry at a brand new church setting.  I still remember my first day in the office.  I sat down, turned on my laptop and thought “Ok, so what do I do now?”

On the other hand, I feel really young and still new to ministry.  Most people I converse with seem to have been in ministry for a longer time than myself, I still have a lot of things that I don’t know to do or not do, if they will work or not work, etc.  I don’t know if most pastors get to a point where they think “I know what I’m doing.”  But apparently it will take me longer than 7 years to get there.

But here I am, first week of my 8 week sabbatical and it already feels like it’s going to be too short.   I’m also already struggling between competing values as I consider my sabbatical.

There’s the Asian influenced side of me which feels like a “good” Sabbatical is one where you accomplish many things.  Work on the house, write my dissertation, do my ordination things, learn Chinese, exercise every day, visit family and friends, travel, do creative things, blog again, go to spiritual direction, establish some connections, figure out what next for my ministry, etc.   It’s that voice that makes you pack in a vacation with tons of things to do but leaves you more tired at the end of it.

The other value is the value of having good rest.  Of being able to detach and use this time to be renewed.  To come back at the end of it with more, not less.   To have the space to process and reflect, to pray and to meditate.  To listen.

I still haven’t figured out the rhythm of everything that I’m going to do.  But there is one things that I do feel like God is calling me to do: observe.

Ministry has created so many structures for me in my life in which I express my character and spirituality. So what happens when all those structures are removed?  This is one of the questions that I think God is guiding me to answer during this time and to be honest it’s a little scary.  If I keep on blogging I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

 

 

 

 

#27 My first ever silence and solitude

6 May

We’re going back to tales from xanga =) Lots on my mind to finally write about no time to do it though. I feel like I used to write with more feeling. I’m getting old.

Tuesday April 4, 2006

Along with school, there are a few other.. “restless” areas of life, and so the “silence and solitude” retreat that I went on this weekend was welcome. I really desired to have a long extended conversation with God about some of these areas.. maybe find some direction, some solace, and some peace.
And so a group of about 8 guys went up to Idywild on saturday afternoon to the Hilltop Retreat center. It is basically a house converted to have some more rooms, all warmly decorated. Super cozy. The fireplace was nice and the super high ceilings of the living room were a big plus. Not to mention the acres of trails and great places on the mountain to just sit and be and not worry about interruptions (except maybe a hummingbird flying a little too close).
Saturday came and went. A meal, some worship, and the beginning of the “silence and solitude”. I got tired pretty quick so i just went to bed. Woke up at 9:30am the next morning, cleaned up and took my journal, bible, and pen and decided to go for a hike.
There was no map for trails around.. it was a lil adventure in itself. I went down a bit and hit a dead end, so i climbed up another trail and hit a T intersection.
left or right?
in my mind i was trying to figure out which way to find God.. i know it’s foolish to think about it that way, but it was my adventure, I had freedom to choose. And so i thought
what better way to go than up?
And where there was no path was where i made my path. I climbed up the steep hill, and with a few tumbles I made it up into a clearing. There was still some snow on the ground, and the remnants of either a forest fire, or maybe just a lightning struck tree. There were also these beautiful bushes whose wood was deep red, and it’s many small leaves were a bright green. I spent about 10 minutes just looking at one.
I found a place to have a seat and was all ready to start writing and speaking with God about these many things that were on my mind. But another thought crossed my mind.
is this what my soul really needs?
Was i just bringing up the here and now of my situation with God and forgetting about the very depths of my heart? And so, I put down my journal, and my bible, and prayed.
Lord, i don’t even know what my heart needs, but I’m going to trust that within this time that I open my life to you, that you would minister to my soul in the deepest parts, even the ones that I don’t know.
and so I sat there, closed my eyes, and breathed.
no tangible thoughts, no specific requests, i just sat.
no special feelings, no warm fuzzies, no tingling sensations, no inaudible or audible voices.
I just was.
and God was with me.
there was no task to accomplish, no goal to reach, no benchmark to get to, no way to quantify how valuable or worthwhile it was. no way to measure efficacy.. at least not immediately.
there is nothing wrong with giving God time and having nothing to “say” about it afterwards (though i’ve said plenty). just cuz there’s no supernatural voice, no emotional high or feeling doesn’t mean that God isn’t present. god is present.. even in absence.

Posted 4/4/2006 at 12:48 AM

#26 – TBT: Lady Killer – Feb 7, 2005

3 Apr

What the, I’m back?  My last post was in December 2012 =)  Sorry for the hiatus.  Life happens!

To be lazy but still make posts, I’m instituting Throw Back Thursdays the blog edition!  I’ve archived my blog posts from Xanga and I’ll do my best to do a throwback blog post from my Xanga days (2002-2010ish?).  It’s easy to forget I had a life before ministry!  These were the exciting years of the end of college (I took a while to graduate), my teaching adventures, and life in seminary!   These are pretty random =)

 

So without further ado –

the ladies love me… (Taken from Feb 7th, 2005) 

This was when I was teaching 7th grade science but went on the 6th grade overnight field trip. 

so at outdoor ed this past week, we got the pleasure of sleeping in cabins.  They guy teachers were supposed to have cabin 8 while the lady teachers took cabin 7.. well they decided to switch us to cabin 7 for some reason…

no biggie I thought..   well I go into cabin 7 pick out my spot (there were only 3 guy teachers there and my stuff was the only stuff in there)  and proceed to leave.  upon leaving and looking at the door, i realize why the ladies switched us to cabin 7

the whole door was covered in ladybugs!!!  one of the lady teachers said that she first thought the door had a curtain on it… it was THAT many lady bugs…  normally lady bugs are cute but when you’ve got a TON of them (tonne for all you Queen’s English folk out there) it’s quite a different story. i figured.. “ah well, as long as they stay on the door it should be alright…” and I left.

later that night the light was turned on inthe cabin and I went back inside…

now all the lady bugs had moved themselves from the door (where the sunlight was coming in before) to the flourescent light!  ugh..  then i realized that there were lady bugs everywhere, a couple on one bed, a couple on another..

this is where i then earned my nickname “lady killer”

i busted out a broom and played some lady bug baseball.. I would sweep along the light and they would all start flying.. then i swung as hard as I could at the cloud of bugs.   it was quite fun listening to them THWACK at the opposite wall.. then I would sweep up the remains and sweep it outside.. took me 30 minutes before it was down to a manageable number..

needless to say they kept coming back thoruhgout the next couple of days.. and well..  the world is probably short a hundred ladybugs or so thanks to me =)

#25 – A slow clap for the nice guys

31 Dec

Over the years I’ve had many conversations about the “nice guy” syndrome.  It’s played out in different conversations but the end is the same.  Nice guys finish last.  Nice guys don’t get the girl.  You can’t just be nice, you need to be nice AND ________. There is a war against the nice guy which is funny because the nice guy mentality doesn’t fight wars.  And I must admit that I also have been a bit hard on the “nice only” kind of guys.  “You need passion, you need something that defines you, you can’t just be nice!”   These are all things that I’ve said.  But recently I’ve had to jump into a “nice guy” role and it’s freakin hard. And it makes me wonder if in the same way that introverts have been misunderstood, maybe it’s possible that the nice guy has also been misunderstood and more importantly, unappreciated. So with that, allow me to start the slow clap for the nice guys.

*Note that this article is designed to defend and appreciate the nice guy, not the nice girl.. mainly because nobody would ever hate on a nice girl. Also, I am not a nice guy. 

[clap……….clap……….clap]

1. Nice Guys combine a understanding of pain and disappointment with an unspoken compassion even for their oppressor.

The nice guy is often perceived as passive and weak.  Unwilling to stand up for themselves and easily pushed over.  In actuality the nice guy just understands pain, disappointment, and discomfort at a deeper level than others.  He understands that being overridden stinks, or having your desires not met is horrible, and then extends that to a conviction of not being a part of having someone else experience those things.  A nice guy generally knows that they could handle a high level of disappointment without lashing out so instead of “fighting back” they choose to take it upon themselves.   A nice guy will choose to receive pain rather than inflict it even it if means it would stop them from getting hurt.

As a younger brother you get used to a reality that you are just weaker, slower, smaller, and inferior to your bigger brother.  In the same way, as an older brother you just get used to the fact of being stronger, faster, smarter and superior to your younger brother.  This is played out in countless scenarios throughout childhood.  But I remember when things started changing for me.  I got taller and faster and eventually stronger (although not smarter).  But even after that happened and I knew that it had happened, if my brother got mad at me and was chasing me around the house to “get back at me” for something, I would inevitably just choose to slow down, get caught, and get beat up.  Why?  Because in this scenario I knew that it would be ok in the end, that relationship would be restored and life would continue on as brothers.  I knew that I could take it and that taking it would resolve things.  Fighting back on the other hand, (or worse yet, fighting back and winning) had the potential to completely break and shift the whole landscape of relationship, something which I didn’t desire to do.  It wasn’t a pushover thing, it was a thoughtful thing.

[slowly gets out of the chair… clap…clap…clap]

2. Nice guys prioritize fixing situations/dealing with things in the now.

Nice guys get things done.  When there is a problem, a situation, etc.  It doesn’t matter who started it, it doesn’t matter where it came from, all that matters is how to fix it.  It’s not that the nice guy doesn’t think or consider these things, but he doesn’t like other people being uncomfortable or in a difficult situation.  Fix first.  Question later.  Not a bad type of person to have around when all of life is freaking out.

[standing up.. clap, clap, clap]

3. Nice guys let people be completely themselves, sometimes at a personal cost.

Often times the nice guy is seen as a pushover, a man without a voice, and a man with no passion.  But this simply isn’t true.  Nice guys deeply value letting others be completely who they are.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  They don’t manage other people’s actions or manipulate situations for their own personal desirable outcome.  These types of people are a gift to have.  These are the types of people that will let you be your crappy self and then deal with it (see #2).   Not because they are passive, but because they are convinced that kindness can lead to repentance and that grace will eventually lead to growth, whether the receiver of it even knows they are getting it.  Nice guys, you rock.

[standing ovation]