“But I Don’t See You as Asian” – A Call to Listen

A year or two ago, I downloaded Bruce Reyes-Chow’s book, “But I Don’t See You as Asian.”  Here’s an excerpt from Amazon describing the book:

Bruce invites the reader into a salon type of atmosphere where he directly addresses thoughtless words and diversionary tactics, such as dismissing racial discussions as being impolite or avoiding race conversations altogether. He invites the reader to chuckle, gasp, and perhaps nod in understanding as he lists the kinds of statements often used against persons of color in a predominantly white culture. But rather than stopping there, Bruce asks readers to swap shoes with him and reconsider their assumptions about race…”But I don’t see you as Asian” puts one person’s joys and struggles on the table for dissection and discovery.

I started reading Bruce’s book when I first purchased it (I am VERY good at starting books), but never ended up finishing it (I am TERRIBLE at finishing books!).  Some racially-insensitive comments over Christmas prompted my wife to begin reading this book, and they got me thinking, once again, about my existence as a bi-racial person.  My father was adopted from South Korea and my mother is caucasian.

Race has always been part of my life’s experiences.  My family’s too.  Dad spent his early childhood years in Detroit and still remembers some of the race-riots he grew up seeing.  Mom tells stories about people who didn’t (and still don’t) approve of her interracial marriage. My sister, who looks the most “asian,” was called “Panda” in school.  I remember sitting in my AP Physics class listening to my friend’s joke: What sound does a roller coaster make going up the hill?  Chink – Chink – Chink (the sound hammers made when Japanese and Asian slaves built America’s Western railroads).

ha ha ha…Laughter always seemed to make conversations about race “easier.”

But boy do most of those comments and jokes hurt – even the ones I used to lead off with, and still occasionally slip back into saying.  And the ones meant to be…nice(?) – “But I don’t see you as Asian” – hurt just as much.

We had a conversation about race several months ago in our weekly Crossroads Bible Study, where I encouraged the predominately White attendees to take positions of listening when conversing with someone different than them.  You have earn the right to be heard.  This, of course, goes for persons of any color, gender, nationality, religion, or political party.  Earn the right to be heard.

Scripture is replete with calls for us to listen.  Time and again, Jesus declared: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Jesus’ brother James also called on Christians to be “slow to speak and quick to listen.”

Listening is an incredible gift to give someone: allowing for them to feel heard.  This is especially true for pain-filled conversations and experiences: Race.  Abuse of any kind.  Divorce.  Religious intolerances.  Bankruptcy.  Suicide.  If you are fortunate enough to be part of such a conversation, you don’t need to tell that person anything; let them tell you.  Let them tell you about their story, their experiences, their feelings, pains, joys, and struggles.  Ask questions, yes, but don’t lend advice.  Don’t try to “fix” or “correct” their experiences. There may be another time, later, to talk with them after you’ve earned the right to be heard.  

It’s not easy to listen.  It’s a skill that needs to be learned and practiced.  Even if the one you listen to doesn’t respond in kind, I hope that you are able to find that person or those persons who take the time to listen to you.  I hope you get the chance to feel heard too.

On this MLK Jr. Day, so many quotes and memories come back to me.  I am a big MLK fan.  I suppose one stands out for me this morning is the quote below: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

May you be bearers of justice.  May you bring the gifts of a listening heart and eager ears that hear.  May you be one who cares enough to listen to those who are different from you.

It won’t be easy.  But it could change everything.

Thanks for listening…

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Living a More Balanced Life

I’ve always had this problem where I work to exhaustion.  Whether in school or at work, all of my energy gets focused on the task at hand and then, when the task is completed, I get sick for a few days.  Sure enough, it happened to me again right before Christmas.

Advent is a very busy season for pastors.  There are special services to plan for, Christmas Cantatas to attend, volunteers to call upon, parties and social gatherings to visit, mission projects to give to, and year-end giving to raise so to get through the expensive, less-generous winter months.  Add in a wedding anniversary, district and conference commitments, and family Christmases, my December was crammed full of “to do’s.”  This year it all caught up with me the Monday before Christmas.  I barely got off the couch for two days sick and exhausted.

“Why do I keep doing this to myself?” I wonder every year.

Have you ever wondered that question?  I’m guessing you have at some point, if not regularly like me.  On Sunday, I challenged people to make this year different than last year.  Here are some ways this year is going to be different for me than last.

Bill Hybels, in one of his annual Global Leadership Summit addresses, talked about “energy bursts.”  He contended that people only have so many energy bursts, and he differentiated different types: daily, weekly, seasonally.  For Bill, he thinks categorically in a “6×6” format.  6 weeks.  6 contributions.  “We can’t sprint for 6 months,” he reminded me (duh! right?).  But we can run daily, weekly, and seasonally if we plan appropriately.

I think I am going to use this approach for my Word of the Year: BALANCE.

I am going to think daily, weekly, and seasonally through the four areas of worship, love, work, and play.  Here are some of my six week goals for the four areas that will “done” by the end of February:

Worship

  • discover new worship music
    • I need to find some new Christian music that I actually enjoy.  I miss listening to worship music.
  • I will read Galatians and Ephesians for my own personal benefit/devotions.  NOT work related.  This will be done in the mornings before I begin working or else they won’t happen…I know myself too well.

Love

  • I will start going on TWO dates a month with Kate.  We worked our way back up to having a date monthly, but we need to spice things up.  People keep warning us about that “7 year itch” (thank you, people who keep telling us about this btw…NOT! :P).  I don’t want that.  Kate and I need to hangout more and not get lost in kid-related-stuff.
  • My daughter and I will start having weekly Daddy-Daughter dates again.  I miss those and cherish our times alone together.  Plus this will get me out of the house more and will give Kate some personal time.

Work

  • personal work:
    • I am going to read two books a month.  This month is just one since I’m starting mid-way through January:
      • Doing the Math of Mission, by Gil Rendle
    • I am going to start working out three days a week again.  I have a feeling it’s time to pull the trigger on getting that YCMA personal trainer
  • church work
    • I am going to start my work day praying in the sanctuary.  I won’t open my laptop until I have prayed first.
    • I am going to work hard on our current visioning series – For Such a Time as This – and get leaders signed up for the ministries we are launching during Lent.
    • I will need to be thinking through what we’ll study during Lent too…

Play

  • I’m going to start taking care of me.  One activity a day that “fills my soul”
    • wood-working
  • I am going to check off a “bucket list” item when I go skiing in Colorado with my brother in law at the end of January.
  • I am going to build that West Elm nightstand I’ve been talking about for a month.  That will require that I:
    • build a box-joint table saw jig
    • purchase wood and paint
    • find the legs I want to put on it
  • I am going to do some awesome things for my 30th birthday
    • go tubing with kids/families from the church
    • have a party with friends that may or may not involve jumping on trampolines at Sky Zone!

There are my lists.  I don’t think I’ve overdone it.  I have that tendency, so I’ll give this list a shot for the next two weeks and amend it appropriately.  I hope there is BALANCE within this list.  I want there to be an appropriate amount of tension that “fills my soul” and challenges me enough but not too much.  We’ll see how it goes!

A New Year, a Renewed Me.

I admit it.  I’ve been in a funk – personally, physically, professionally, spiritually, relationally.  Pretty much in every way, the winter doldrums have been widely apparent.  Normally the winter blues don’t hit me until February, but this year they’ve arrived early.

December was a rough month for me.  It seemed as though the sun only shined one or two days.  Normally Advent is one of the most powerful and personally-meaningful seasons of the Liturgical year for me, but this year I never really “got” into it.  The days were darker in more ways than one.  As the daylight time decreased, news reports of local and global tragedies grew.  Coupled with all of that, I stopped running (and I was doing SO well too!! grrrr) and started eating terribly.  By the time Christmas rolled around, I was grumpy and mad.

Thankfully, New Year’s was just around the corner.  Days have been sunnier already, daylight is growing, and the night is receding.  As I turn the page to a new year, I am hoping to have a “renewed me.”

Last year I was introduced to the idea of having a “Word of the Year.”  If you aren’t familiar with this concept, google it and you’ll discover a host of websites, books, and Facebook groups that explain the idea.  In short, having a “Word of the Year” is a way of funneling or focusing your life-goals and New Year’s Resolutions under one word.  I like the way blogger Christine Kane explains it: “The best order for creating positive changes in your life is the BE-DO-HAVE model.  This means you start from the BE level.  When you begin changing the BE level of your life, then the DO level and HAVE level follow more easily.”  In other words, a Word of the Year focuses on who we are/want to be first and allowing what we do to flow out of that.

I tried this with our church in 2014.  Our Word of the Year was GROW.  It was portable, easily remembered, and applicable in countless ways.  We wanted to grow spiritually so that our lives more resembled Christ’s.  We wanted to grow numerically, so we set a goal to welcome seven new families into our church.  We wanted to grow our ministries, so we revamped our Vacation Bible School program and began identifying new Sunday School/Bible Study leaders.  Overall it was a successful first attempt.

This year I am applying the Word of the Year concept to my own life.  My Word of the Year is BALANCE.  I discovered the image below when a pastor-friend of mine posted it on his Facebook timeline.  It resonated with me then, and I’ve found myself regularly coming back to it.  I think a large part of my unrest has come from living an unbalanced life.  This year I want to be far more intentional and purposeful in working toward creating balance in the four categories pictured – worship, love, play, and work.  Perhaps in the next few weeks I will flush out how I intend live into my Word of the Year through these categories this year.  I want to BE a more balanced person.  Let’s see what I should DO to HAVE that.

life balance