Category Archives: Personal

Quick Review: Shame Interrupted

Over the past few months I read Edward T. Welch’s Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness & RejectionIt was one of those books that lent itself to casual reading over time to maximize the experience of reading it. There are about 30 chapters that all take about 15 minutes to read and they are thematically organized so taking it in short doses while I read other things as well was a quite refreshing way to go through it.

Welch is a counselor so he tackles the issue of shame from that perspective, but he also offers some solid theology to ground his writing. What I appreciate was that in addition to the theological and psychological insights, Welch shows himself aware of many of the cultural and social dimensions to shame and identity. He draws on helpful insights from both the Ancient Near East as well as cultures today. He also addresses power and majority-minority dynamics intentionally at various places, which I appreciated.

There’s a poetic and lyrical nature to how this book is written so it is very easy to read in some ways, but it’s an easy read more so because the style targets the human heart and reality so authentically that there’s not much in the book that you don’t feel like you relate to.

In Asia, shame is a more recognized and understood dynamic. People just get it – and as such, this is a great resource here in Asia. In the west, shame is not something most know their way around. Many either are not aware of what it is and its impact on identity and relationships or they don’t know what to do with it or how to find freedom.  This book helps develop awareness of how shame may be at work in one’s life and it offers a grounded and hopeful perspective from Scripture to help one understand how to see their story re-written as they place their story within the God’s story.

It’s actually a really creative and insightful book that offers an immense depth of wisdom and insight. I would recommend it to just about everyone because I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t benefit from going through this book whether for personal growth or leadership development.

 

1 Day 3 Kids 3 Ways of Affection

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Our family is in a bit of transition, and we have been it seems for about 2 1/2 years now!  But recently we made a move to a different part of the city so our kids could make the move to a new school as part of our continued journey here in Manila.  This past week was a rude awakening as we were all up about 5am every day and because of traffic here there were days I didn’t even get to see my kids at night.

That’s what made Friday night such a relief – to make it through our first big week with our new schedule and everyone having their own world’s after a couple years of being together a lot.  But we missed each other and I couldn’t wait to be with my kids this weekend.  And I was encouraged that the three of them missed me too and the ways they expressed it enhanced my appreciation for their uniqueness.  So let me share the 3 different and unique ways my kids expressed affection for me that reflects their own unique personalities.

First, my oldest daughter Morgan (10) wanted to share everything she did at school. She wanted me to know what she did and what she has to do. She wanted me to know the types of things she enjoyed doing and the things she didn’t enjoy doing. (Probable ISTJ on the MBTI!) She connects a lot through talking and interacting about what she does, though I’m glad I got a “Dad, I really missed you this week” from her too!

Next up is our middle child, our 7 year old son Colin. He is a probable ENFP on the MBTI if that means anything to you, but if not – here’s how he expressed himself to me while we were hanging out on the couch Friday night. He said, “Dad, if I were a squirrel I would just crawl up right on your shoulder and get super cozy and let my big fluffy tail hang down your arm and I would be so warm and comfy.”  He communicates a little different than our oldest daughter 🙂

And finally our 4 year old Kaelyn who just started pre-school. She doesn’t quite have the same vocabulary, but I got a deep and hearty “Daddy, I love you.” I say deep and hearty because she has a deep and hearty voice!  But she also offered, “Daddy, will you sit next to me at dinner?” I don’t quite  have a beat on my youngest’s personality type, but I know that getting invited to sit next to her at dinner is a big deal so I was excited to sit in the place of honor!

I love my kids. I am grateful that they love me and I love the unique ways they show it. It reminded me that we all show care and affection in different ways and it’s important to recognize what is meaningful to others even when on the surface it doesn’t connect right away with our preferences.

 

The Fork in the Road

When was the last time you had a huge decision you needed to make where you felt like a lot was at stake either way?

That’s kind of where our family has been the last many months – trying to discern God’s will for us in this next season of our lives, leadership, and ministry. Do we continue to live, serve, and work in a different part of the world or do we return home to much that is familiar?

Last month my oldest daughter, in a moment of honest inquiry, asked me, “Dad – how do you know what the right decision is?”  She elaborated by asking, “What if we stay and I end up wishing we went home?  And what if we go home and I wished we had stayed?”

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I loved the moment as a parent to connect with my daughter over what feels like a massive fork in the road with a lot at stake.  There was some anxiety, but really it was an honest wrestling over potential grieving and of the fear of making the wrong decision – of enduring feared consequences and facing loss.

But the reality is our daughter mirrored the question both my wife and I have been wrestling with for some time – how do we know? And what happens if end up wishing we had made a different decision?

We have plenty of perspective and training as it relates to making decisions or discovering God’s will, but when there’s a lot at stake there’s still the lingering pressure to “get it right.”

But the reality is we’ll never know the alternative universe in which we live a life as if we made a different decision.  Part of walking by faith is not just trusting in God for the best decision moving forward, but it’s trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness in every step of the journey after the decision. There’s a freedom in that despite the gravity of the decision making and in this decision process of ours it’s that freedom and confidence we want our kids to experience and know.

We don’t yet know definitively what the Lord has for us, but as a family it’s been a formational journey together developing trust and confidence in a good and sovereign God.

Pre-School Theology: Snow White Jesus

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

I’m taking a break from posting my Multi Ethnic Ministry Learnings to post a few things of a different variety that I don’t want to sit on any longer.

I started a series several years ago called “Pre-School Theology” that was derived mostly from experiences with our son. He’s not in pre-school anymore, but now our youngest has entered that range and is providing some great moments for us as far as her growing theology goes.

So you know how for many that grow up in the church and Sunday School it isn’t that hard for them to develop a Christology that essentially equates to a male version of snow white.  Jesus is a gentle figure who lives at peace with nature and converses with animals, possibly even understanding somehow their animal dialects.  The picture of bluebirds gently resting on an outstretched finger conveys somehow the inner beauty and His identity as Creator of the universe. You know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, this beauty of a painting is out there and you should get what I’m referring to here.

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But apparently my 4 year old daughter did not get the Snow White Jesus treatment and somehow picked up something entirely different in her church experience.   One night about when she turned 4 years old, when talking about animals and where they came from, we had this conversation:

K:  “Dad! Don’t you know that Jesus hates all the animals and eats them all up!”

Me:  “What?! Where did you learn that? Why do you think Jesus hates animals?”

K:  “My teacher said so. Jesus wants to eat all the animals.”

Me:  “Wow. But the Bible says that the world and the animals in it were created by Jesus.”

K:  “Yes, so he could eat them.”

And the debate continued for a while because she’s a strong and passionate gal.

So we have Snow White Jesus and Carnivore Jesus.

I’m sure volunteers who teach pre-school or other grades at Sunday School have some measure of paranoia about what these little ones say after hearing various lessons and stories.  Maybe a reminder to pray for those pre-school teachers out there who have the challenging task to help little ones understand basic ideas 🙂

Family Hug!

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Had a fun moment last week.  As our family was leaving my parent’s place and our kids were saying good-bye to their cousins (close in age to our youngest – in the 2 year old range), they were starting to give each other hugs.  That is cute in and of itself – watching 2 year olds hug each other.  But then my little one (2 yrs 3 months) was clearly feeling the moment and yelled “Family Hug!” and initiated a big family hug with all family members who were in sight.

It was amazing to me that at her age, our little one already has a paradigm, a construct of what “Family” is.  It’s been nurtured for sure by her context – the environment she has lived in and who her world consists of.  Even though recently turning two, she associates family with closeness, togetherness, hugs, and touch.  It’s part of how she understands the world, it’s even part of how she sees herself. She sees herself as part of something – even at a young two.

We’re thankful that she has had such an experience where she has such a view of what Family is.  But it’s sobering too that as Kaelyn is internalizing certain truths about what Family is or should be, many her age are forming very different constructs about family that do not include closeness, connection, or healthy loving touch – like hugs.

Family is part of our identity. It informs so much about how we see the world and ourselves.  We are forever marked by our origins. Yet if those origins are painful or dark, we need not be enslaved by them.  I’m thankful that in God’s grace he aims to provide children tangible expressions of his love and grace through the family.  I’m also thankful that through his Spirit and through His people, His body that our incomplete or broken constructs of love and family can be redeemed and built up.

As I watch my little girl, one thing is crystal clear – she was created for family, just as we all are.  God wants all His human creations to know and experience family. It’s the language of the New Testament. He’s constantly inviting people to a promise of family where all of our limited and earthly notions of what family is or is not can be transformed and re-ordered so that holy love is the foundation of how we come to see and relate to one another.

Gatherings of the body ought to be in many ways, “Family Hugs.” That’s very touchy feely language I’m not typically associated with, but gatherings of the body ought to be expressions and celebrations of our common identity as the family of God as well as our uniquenesses as individuals within that family.

So maybe “Family Hugs” need to become part of your tradition!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Reflections on the LA Riots Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Reflections on the LA Riots

It’s crazy to believe that the LA Riots or “civil unrest” was 20 years ago.  As the media has been starting to take people back to what happened 20 years ago, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my experience that week.  I’d love to share with you some of my reflections and invite you to share yours of what you may remember. This will likely be a 3 part series over the next few days.

It’s a fascinating exercise because looking back I see more and see differently than I did then.  I was 17 years old, a junior in high school.  I went to Long Beach Poly High School, an urban high school not too far from the downtown part of Long Beach, California.  Long Beach Poly is known for a couple things nationally – having sent more pro football players to the NFL than any other high school and also having produced no shortage of rap icons.  Snoop Dogg was there for a couple of my years in high school among others.  It was an extremely ethnically diverse school at the time, and even more so now.

Long Beach, part of LA county, is about 25-30 minutes southwest from South Central LA where the riots broke out.  But the riots didn’t stay contained to South Central Los Angeles and spread to a couple parts of Long Beach including the surrounding area of my high school.  An indicator of the strangeness and perhaps surreal nature of what was taking place is reflected in the fact that I had friends who spend much of that time helping their families protect their stores and I had other friends who did some looting. It was crazy.

I remember Rodney King, the video footage of his beating by white cops, the trial, the acquittal, and the great rage which had been brewing.  As a white person watching, the clearest and most vivid memory was seeing the coverage of the beating of Reginald Denny, a white truck driver who was pulled out of his cab and beaten unconscious.  As a white person, the truth of the matter was pretty evident and powerful – that could have been me.  That wasn’t the first time I had experienced racism directed at me as a white person, but it was the first time where I realized that if I were in the wrong place at the wrong time I could end up like Denny – that I could be harmed because of the color of my skin.

One of more memorable elements of that time was the decision to go to school the next day after the riots broke out in South Central LA.  For background, from fifth grade to twelfth grade I attended public school about 30 minutes across town from where I lived.  Part of the strategy for ethnic diversity and integration was the establishment of various academic programs in the more urban and predominantly ethnic minority communities.  At the time of the riots, while I was in high school, my youngest sister was at the Junior High I went to that was even farther away.  Watching the news, which showed where the rioting was breaking out with little mini fire icons over city maps, generated a lot of anxiety for some. It was a strange feeling for a while to see the fire icons “getting closer” wondering how bad things were going to get.

Many of the white parents chose not to send their kids to school the next day or day after, especially when they were sending their kids across town.  Looking back I find it interesting that my sister and I both didn’t blink and we wanted to go school, never really considering not going. I remember being asked if I thought I should take the day off because of the potential racial conflicts that were breaking out and as a white person I might be an object of racist hate or violence.  I blew that notion off without much thought, but I could tell at the time that there were a lot of nervous parents that day.

I remember vividly driving to school during that time with a couple friends and seeing buildings near the school that had been burnt down and signs of unrest that had spilled over into that part of the city.  Usually I felt very secure at the school and I don’t remember it being that different that day.  There was in fact a significant conflict or “fight” on campus that first day as I remember, but ironically it didn’t involve Caucasians. Life continued to happen while there was still a lot of chaos in the city at large.

When my sister and I got home, I remember my mom asking us how it was and if there ever was any moment where we felt fearful or threatened.  My sister, who was 14 at the time and in 8th grade, had the best response which we’ve laughed about ever since.  She said, “It was fine, no problems. The only thing really that wasn’t normal was a bunch of students yelling ‘We hate white people!’”  We get a kick out of my sister’s nonchalance at the time now, but I’m sure my mom loved hearing that at the time.

Looking back I remember two distinct emotional realities.  First, the great rage felt especially by the black community.  I understand the dynamics much more now than I did then.  Back then it was hard to understand the systemic realities and injustice and even hopelessness for many that true justice could be served.  The rally cry, “No Justice, No Peace” is about a clear a call for those in power to wake up and pay attention to a community as there can be.  Racism and systemic oppression were on display throughout the whole process, maybe most notoriously through the dispatching of many from the police force to “protect” Beverly Hills while there was great need to restore order where the riots had broken out in the inner city.  Power at work preserving itself again.

The second strong emotional reality was that of anxiety and fear among the white community.  I don’t know if I felt it as much because I was young, had grown up amidst great diversity, or what, but I clearly saw it around me.  White people aren’t used to being targeted in such ways and it was unnerving for most.  Part of the anxiety was because I don’t think most white folk then (and even now) were able to understand the underlying dynamics of why such hostility and anger finally boiled over.  So what was in many ways an angry response to real and perceived injustice, many whites interpreted as only racist lashing out by the uneducated poor and criminal.  White people were very fearful and anxious in general during that time from what I remember. They experienced the events primarily through the lens of “Are we safe?” as opposed to trying to understand what had driven people to such action and what this all meant.

The riots brought to the surface much of what had been there all along – and it’s with great confidence I can say that many white men and women missed what was truly at work in that time under the surface, even if much of the expression of anger in the civil unrest was in fact criminal and illegal. The criminal element should not have negated the pain of the community which was being expressed in many ways. This pain had been a ticking time bomb that the acquittals of the police officers set off.

When I look back, it seems surreal.  For a season it was extremely intense, then life went back to normal.  But the experience stuck with me, even though I didn’t have the experience or frame of reference that I do now.

I walked through that experience with an extremely diverse group of friends and the next post will focus on my reflections and memories of how the events and experience of the Riots was processed in that context.

Where were you? How old were you? 

What do you remember and how do you see it differently now than you did then?

Not a White Christmas for Everyone

This is one of my favorite posts to put up every Christmas – straight from my neighbor’s porch…Merry Christmas!!

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I took this picture last week on my neighbors front porch because it’s awesome. It’s a life-sized, African-American Santa statue.

I love this season, but as part of the majority culture (from an ethnic standpoint) it’s not always easy knowing how others, those part of the ethnic minority, experience these holiday seasons when some of their expression is so rooted in the majority culture.

There are those that might see this and want to make the point that Saint Nicholas was in fact from one of those northern European countries and was probably white. That’s really besides the point. The point is that sometimes it’s good to remember how others experience things that those of us in the dominant culture take for granted and don’t even think twice about. That’s what this statue is a reminder of to me. I loved it when I saw it for the first time and had to take a picture. It can be a little sobering at times to realize that traditions we hold dear can actually serve to alienate others.

My Jewish friends have always joked about always going out to Chinese food every year on Christmas because everywhere else is closed.  That’s another reminder that while we have some very enjoyable holiday seasons, not everybody experiences them the same way.

Displaced!

Sometime life throws you some curve balls.

How our kitchen looked the last couple of weeks

We found ourselves in an unexpected season the last couple of weeks.  In short, we found ourselves displaced.

We returned from a weekend trip to Christine’s parents to a high pressure regurgitation of sewage from a blocked pipe that contaminated part of our floor, kitchen cabinets and a wall. So we found ourselves in a hotel on Thanksgiving eve and we’ve been a bit nomadic between housesitting, hotels, and family over the last week and a half – challenging with 3 small kids! The best word to capture our feelings as a family is that we feel displaced.

But as the initial shock has worn off, the Lord has reminded us that despite people’s best efforts to control their environments and territory, God does some of His best work among those who have been displaced! God displaced Joseph to provide for His chosen people. God displaced the Israelites for many years in the wilderness to prepare them for the promised land. I’ve heard it said God took one year to get the Israelites out of Egypt and 40 years to get the Egypt out of the Israelites. Displacement can have a variety of purposes!

And as we move into advent, we’ve been reminded that our Savior was born amidst very displaced circumstances – as Mary and Joseph were far away from home and without the basic luxuries of a room at an inn. God can work powerfully amidst seasons of disorientation.

God sees the displaced, and there are many, and often is doing a mighty work even if unseen by the world. We don’t know what deeper purposes God might have had for us in this chaotic and uncomfortable season, but we have been increasingly mindful that we have been called to serve and minister among students and leaders from many communities that are currently displaced (refugee communities from Southeast Asia especially) or where there is a history and legacy of displacement (1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation immigrant families).

As I think about displaced communities and people that feel displaces – that they don’t truly belong where they are or that they have a true home – that’s where I truly believe God is doing some of his best work!  I just wished we as people, and me myself,  would see more of what God sees when he looks upon the displaced. It might change how we respond and enter into their stories.

Is Pain the Key to Empowerment?

It’s timely to re-post today one of the most popular posts ever on my blog, or top 10 at least.  Morgan’s got another jog-a-thon in the morning (Thursday) and it brings back a lot of memories documented here.  She’s still nervous about it, because like one of her parents she takes everything super seriously 🙂  This post was originally posted on November 5, 2010.

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Another huge lesson on empowerment was hammered home to me today, again through my daughter.  She did her school fundraiser jog-a-thon this morning.  For most kids this is no big thing.  But Morgan has mild cerebral palsy and wears a small brace on her right leg.  In general her muscle strength is not nearly as strong as her peers because of C.P.Today was amazing on one level because we went from Morgan not running in P.E. (see P.E. Empowerment) to her now jogging/walking for 30 minutes straight.

Each lap was about 1/10 of a mile or so.  Morgan thought she could do 5.  That was her goal.  I thought she could easily do that walking, but I thought 10 was the max for her.

She did 13.  (about 1 1/4 miles)

She said her leg was hurting in the middle and that was when she slowed it down a bit, but she ran most of the last 3 laps she did and finished strong.  She’s feeling like hot stuff right now (another side affect from empowered behavior and accomplishment!).

But the powerful lesson was on the sidelines for me.  My wife and I and my parents were there in support, in response to Morgan’s request, and we were a total wreck emotionally.  Christine was crying before lap 1.  My mom didn’t make it to lap 2.It might be hard for you to get it, but as an analogy (maybe a poor one) I would say it would be equivalent to what you would feel if your son or daughter had a speech impediment and they participated in a speech contest.  Or what you might feel at a high school graduation if the kid had a learning disability and struggled to keep passing grades, but managed to overcome and graduate.

Pushin' Through the Pain

Watching a girl who has had on average 1-2 physical therapy appointments for the past four years in order to build strength, leg coordination and flexibility, and learning to exercise control over her leg get out there and push herself to run to the best of her ability and then to finish strong the last 3 laps is pretty much enough to do you in.  I was drained at the end and more tired than Morgan.

Here’s the lesson. Watching her push herself, struggle through her own pain, and battle her own limitations generated certain responses within me (and those with me, no names of course!).  There’s an instinctive desire to take the pain away.  To say, “It’s ok, you’ve done great, but you don’t have to keep running if you’re hurting.” Or to even get out there with her and support her (I had visions of that British sprinter and his father in the Olympics a decade ago!).

But if I had given into those instincts you know what I would have missed?

I would have missed watching her running the last 3 laps harder than the first 3 laps.

I would have missed watching her and her friend Zoe encouraging each other and motivating each other to keep running until the whistle blew those last few laps.

I would have missed hearing her laugh on her final lap with joy that comes with knowing that she conquered something that she was pretty nervous about all week.

I would have missed experiencing a moment where she leaned over to me and said, “Dad!  I did 13 laps!”

I would have missed the feeling I’ve had all day of being proud not just of who she is, but of how determined she was to do her best and push herself as much as she could when she could easily have taken an easy out.

I might have ruined an otherwise very empowering experience for my daughter.

Here’s where pain and empowerment come together:

If you can’t manage YOUR OWN capacity to tolerate and handle pain and struggle in others, you WILL FAIL in empowering others.  You will hamstring them through an unregulated empathy and compassion. Major parenting lesson here for those of us in that stage of life!

Obviously, there are times to pour on the love and empathy.  But when others are capable of, and even responsible for, standing on their own – we must let them.  We must encourage them, but we must not protect them from pain to the degree that they never learn how to persevere through it or even overcome it.

This is a hard lesson.  It’s hard because it hurts. The question for us as leaders and human beings is this:

When we are engaging to take care of others or rescue them, are we doing it to take away their hurt…..Or are we really trying to take away our own?

Let’s help people become ABLE and not DISable them through unrestrained empathy.

How do you navigate the tension between letting people struggle in a good way and in a developmental way versus intervening to bring comfort and care when it is needed?

Why are you worried? I got this!

You see Colin in the picture with Morgan.  He was very sad the first half of the race because he couldn’t run.  Without about 12 minutes to go we turned him loose and he held his own though he looked like a field mouse amidst the other kids.  He ran straight the whole time (with water break stops) and ended up cracking off about 6-7 laps himself in the last 12 minutes.  One of the more memorable moments was him grabbing a water cup and drinking it on the run and then throwing the cup with its remaining water into the air like a legit marathon runner.  Too funny.

Great job Morgan!  (and Colin too!)

Thanks to those of you who sponsored her!