Category Archives: Relationships

Brothers Still

The four of us sat in a row together, in a building full of memory beneath the paint of the walls. The first slide up front was a cursive proclamation: “You Belong Here”. Perhaps to some of us, it was a warm welcome home, and perhaps to others of us, it was a threat… or maybe a mixture of both and more. Listening to the songs that meant so much to us when we were younger, eliciting different reactions in us today- comfort, revulsion, confusion, curiosity. Familiarity and foreignness.

There was a communal snicker that came out of our row of four as the announcements of a youth lock-in came on screen. “…remember the bathroom?” and it was hard for us to contain our laughter as memories from almost 20 years ago resurfaced; we were making a scene just like we used to all those years ago.

Sit. Stand. Pray. Sit back down. Greet someone. (“…It’s been so long!”) Listen to sermon. Try not to listen to eachother’s snickers. Stand. Pray. Leave.

Nothing’s really changed.

As we sat at a barbecue restaurant at 10:30am (nothing better than barbecue for breakfast), we marveled at how much it all felt like home, but how strange and unfamiliar it all was. We’ve gone our separate paths. Life has brought different things to us. Some of us have kids, some of us have experienced heartbreak, and some more than others. But all of us are showing age- if not in the color of our hair, it’s in our stories; it’s in the brief pauses after our laughter at old memories and stupid jokes… And in our age, “God” means different things to us all, and some would even say that some of us have “wandered” from the family… but here we were, this strange hodgepodge of personalities that came from the same cloth, as if some strange modern Asian-American version of the beginning of a Dostoyevsky novel (I should probably try finishing that book at some point in my life) had reincarnated itself in our own lives… brothers still.

As we jabbed eachother with old trash talk, with inappropriate jokes and with reminders of awkward memories… there was something powerful and incorruptible underneath it all. There was something deeper to our brotherhood than even (dare I say) religious affiliation.

…Maybe even a hint of God’s presence in our midst, whatever that might mean to each of us.

…or maybe i’m just a little too sentimental. Maybe I’m just a little overoptimistic about the fortitude of old friendships. Maybe I’ve conveniently forgotten how hard these friendships were to maintain through the years. Maybe I’m  just someone stuck in the past and things aren’t as much the same as I think.

But whatever I am, I’m sure of this: I miss these brothers, and I’m thankful for the part they’ve all played in making me the beautiful mess of who I am today. Thanks guys.

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Justice- Ugly, Hard, And Not As Trendy As We Make It Out To Be.

This has been bothering me a little bit. I’m getting really tired of hearing about justice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not agreeing with Glenn Beck’s xenophobic outcry that any church that preaches social justice is unbiblical. In fact, I think that social justice is one of the most important neglected subjects of the Bible that the church must think about. We should be involved with the poor, the hurting, the oppressed, those on the fringes of our communities. And I think a lot of churches have hopped on…

…to the bandwagon.

It’s cool to donate to a catastrophe. It’s cool to say you’re not cool with slavery. It’s cool to get organic and fair trade products. It’s cool to wear TOMS (I myself have a pair).

Call me a hipster that hates bandwagons (and yes, I am one, minus the mustache and plaid), but there’s a reason why. There’s a danger of jumping onto hot topics and bandwagons in ministry. The danger we run into is the tendency to turn important topics into just… trends. I cringe every time I go to an evangelism seminar and somebody (sometimes myself) says “Let’s focus on justice because it’s what this generation cares about! They’re activists! Let’s use that to win them to Christ!” And so, justice has become a tool, a means to an ends… a trend. And unfortunately, trends tend to go out of fashion. What will we do when justice goes out of fashion?

When it comes down to it, we must care for the issues of social justice not because people care about it, but because this is something God cares for. Justice was not a means to an ends, but was included in the all encompassing vision Jesus had of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was a coming shalom, peace and rightness back to created order, which transcends the physical tangible world, but never excluded it. It was a revolution of wholeness that was both earthy and lofty, of right reconciled relationship with God personally, but also physically, emotionally, relationally, systemically.

Then after proclaiming this grand vision, demonstrating power and might through some cool miracles and cool statements- Jesus pulls a fast one. The path He calls us to is not a path of power, glory, showiness, cool campaigns… but a slow, hard, suffering journey, ironically filled with joy. And how we have taken the easy path of charity, where we can look good helping others by doing it at a distance, throwing money at people, voting for the right things! Jesus did not call us to charity, but called us to justice. He calls us to walk alongside the oppressed in reconciliation. He calls us to compassionately share in suffering. He calls us to live incarnation, to go to their house, to eat with, to heal them (and perhaps receive healing from them as well). Jesus calls us out of our ADD compassion and to actually walk the whole journey  with people, where the people cease being the ones we help… but our friends; to keep walking the journey even after walking alongside people stops becoming glorious, when it gets frustrating and hard, when the drug addict relapses, when the homeless guy you helped get out of homelessness goes back on the streets… (Reminds me of what I read Habbakkuk 2:4b  “…but the righteous will live by their faithfulness”). One of the terms in the old testament that has been doing a number on my soul is the term most used to describe God’s love- hesed. It basically means covenantal love- not love because God feels like it or he whims it out of His existence depending on His mood, but a committed, promised, faithful, enduring and promised love. Justice without hesed- the hard long term commitment to whole relationship- is just a really cheap substitute- a really weird generic and flat safeway select cola that tastes nothing like the real thing.

And please, keep giving donations. Keep caring. Keep signing petitions. Keep buying with a lens for justice. But don’t let that be where the pursuit social justice ends. Do it not because other people care about it. Do it because God cares for people, and that He calls us to incarnationally and sacrificially be a demonstrating witness to His care and deep love.

Justice. It’s not that cool. It’s ugly. It’s hard. It gets you bloody and dirty. Really, it’s not the most attractive thing. Sometimes it disappoints. Often, it breaks your heart. But there’s a strange and incorruptible joy that comes out of it if you stay with it after it breaks your heart, where it’s not about yourself, about telling people you did something good, but that you are doing what is on the Father’s heart.

And it’s funny. Thinking about it, i’m pretty far from the standards that i’ve laid out in this rant. I’m just as bandwagonny as the rest of us. I am completely content being at a distance so I can protect my heart from breaking too much. I’m okay just giving some change instead of actually sitting down and eating with the person I give to, committing to friendship. Perhaps it’s a call for myself as well, to stay faithful to the ministry God has called me to- to stay engaged with the people I meet at MiraCosta, oppressed or not (aren’t we all oppressed in different ways anyways?); to lean into what is hard; to stick with the annoying students; to demonstrate what true faithfulness is to my leaders and to rediscover what true joy is in ministry when all the flash and bang is gone.

Welcome.

I’ve been out of town fundraising for the last 2 weeks fundraising.

I love fundraising back in the bay, because… I have friends.

…Let me rephrase (because I definitely have friends near me haha). I have friends that I’ve grown up with my whole life, who know me, whom I don’t need to over-explain… and well, let’s face it. They’re asian. What I love most about my Asian cultural background is the sense of family, of instant belonging. I’ve showed up as a stranger at Asian American churches, and felt an instant welcoming. Like clockwork, even if it was the most awkward and unfriendly Asian American church, I’ll get offered some sort of meal at the end.

You see, I love meals, especially Sunday after-church meals, but for more reasons than me loving eating (which I do). I miss the feeling of getting approached and invited to lunch. I miss the laborious process of standing in the circle, debating what to eat and nobody deciding, until somebody just gets tired of it and decides. I miss sitting around 3-4 combined tables at a pho restaurant, exchanging jokes, talking about the sermon. I miss the bonding that happens during these meals. I miss… the community.

And in this process of being cross-cultural and learning how to love white culture, the one thing I haven’t quite adapted to is the individualist culture of white America… the awkwardness of just getting people together to eat after church. During my 2-year church search process in North County, I observed a certain process: people file out quickly and leave, until I find I’m the only one left talking to perhaps one person, who is a 25% chance of being a lunch buddy. I’ve just kind of folded into it all and joined the individualist masses in leaving quickly. Sunday afternoons are for you to chill out alone and watch TV or something. Community’s supposed to happen somewhere… but perhaps with the family or (I say it sarcastically) for singles, yourself.

So upon my return, I had really low expectations remembering my 2 year search for a church that was welcoming. I was a little embittered from the last 4 years of trying to make attempts at friendship in North County in the midst of my own busy ministry schedule, and then coming immediately from the Bay Area, where I had perhaps just one meal that I ate by myself. I was ready to face the impending isolation. Even worse, church that sunday had a father’s day theme. I really dislike being at those services away from my family, it always seems to serve as a reminder that I am far from home and far from familiarity. It reminds me of how hard it is to be cross cultural, no matter how heroic it sounds.

I love my pastor, and what he did was not wrong, just really hard for myself- He had all the dads stand up, and then all their families stand next to them so that the dads could pray for their families, because that’s what real dad’s should do (which is actually a really cool thought). Unfortunately, I was left alone without a family there, and I could almost feel that sense of isolation creep up on me…

But God has a way of melting the most bitter and cynical heart (of which I’m pretty sure I’m near the top of that list).

As I began to go down the dark vortex of sulkage, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the Jenkinsons. They were signaling for me to get into their family huddle. And I got up and joined their huddle… As I was there surrounded in the huddle of my adopted family and heard Mr. Jenkinson whisper his prayers over his family, I heard in between those whispers, the whispers of my Heavenly Father, reminding me that His embrace, fatherhood and friendship are immutable and immovable, ever so constant.

Ironically, after all my complaining of the lack of meals with people after church at all the white churches I’ve visited, there was a church bbq. I sat down with the Olaguibels and said “ah, mi familia!” and they welcomed me to pull a chair and sit with them. As I sat there in our church’s lawn exchanging jokes with the Olaguibels, I thought- really, this is family.  I remember (now that I think about it) that I decided to stay at Las Flores Church because they were the first white church to remember my name. They even sent me a handwritten letter thanking me for coming a second time. The men’s group I had been going to at Las Flores this last semester has been one of the most convicting and faith building groups I’ve been a part of that was not comprised of just peers. And Pastor Dwayne, he remembers you. He notices and emails you when he notices you haven’t been at church one weekend. So I guess white people can do community if they try :P.

And no, this white church isn’t perfect… but really, when has an Asian church ever been perfect? God is reminding me that He provides, beyond whatever culture, whatever place… true family, home and community are in Him, and He’s a good dad that provides for all our needs. All I need to do is to remember to trust in that, as I forge further ahead in this place of ministry that not many others are in- that He is a God that brings streams in the desert, manna from the sky.

an endless cycle of beginnings and endings.

Cloudy sunsetI have been trying this past 6 months or so to make North County my home. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve had to mourn and cut myself off from things, people and places that have made me comfortable. But I have found that as I’ve come up here, there have been new experiences and joys that have made the pain of leaving worth the reward of entering.

However, I’ve encountered a new phenomenon lately. I’ve watched my new “home” begin to change. It is an obvious but strange occurence that change happens… in the places you’ve left and the places you’ve entered.  This strangeness slapped me in the face today, when I found out that the Smart & Final down the street that I go to for party supplies told me today that they are closing. My Myers-Briggs NF started to kick in and there was this strange heavy sentimentality that overwhelmed me. And I’ve had to say goodbye to many more things than stores. Closed doors. Relationships. Friends. Familiarity. “Home”. There were times in my life where I felt like I couldn’t stop mourning- I would finally finish mourning the loss of something, and then another thing would disappear from my life and the cycle just kept going.

But perhaps my experience of mourning so much (I’m not sure if it’s from an unhealthy disposition towards holding onto things too much or if i’ve really just been in a position to have to say goodbye to that many things) fits so much with community colleges. We watch people leave all the time. I watch my leaders leave so quickly- some to transfer, some back home, some back home to God. The student body seems so transitional, and I find myself really resenting it sometimes. It is easy to be in a constant state of mourning because of all the people I’ve seen who come and go. I can never hold very tight to things, and it often frustrates me. MiraCosta seems to be in an endless state of flux, constantly having to say goodbye to each new thing I’ve encountered, surrendered to the reality that I can’t keep things how I want them to be forever.

I’ve found, though, that the mourning is only one side to reality. As constant as the reality of mourning and the leaving is, the reality of the birth and new beginnings are just as constant. In fact, more constant. Hardly a dualism between death and regeneration, I’m starting to see that the movement of healing, redemption, hope and birth might just have the ability to completely overwhelm our experience of death and mourning.

As quickly as I see people leave, new people come. As quickly as God takes away, he gives again, better.  At least that’s what I have to have faith for. Sometimes, in our present and past realities of brokenness, it is hard to see the present and future healing and redemption. But it is faith in that present and future reality of wholeness where we will no longer have to say goodbye that continues to drive me forward. These days, I find that I am no longer surrounded by death, but by the Kingdom of God ready to be birthed everywhere I look. I am challenged to see hope and life behind every disappointment and death.

The Smart & Final is leaving but in its place is a Henry’s, one of my favorite grocery stores. I can’t dwell on losing my discount bulk supplier, when what I get in exchange is a store with fresh produce, organic stuff and tons of more awesomeness.

Weddings, funerals and birthdays

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This past weekend, I have been in the celebratory cheeriness of a wedding, the somber remembrance of a funeral and a birthday celebration of the ongoing journey of life.

It’s strange to say, but it’s in these moments, rhythms and seasons that I feel closest to God. It is in the summits of celebration and the depths of mourning that the presence of God is exposed the most. These moments aren’t just boring ritual anymore. They point to a richness. There is a richness in the rhythms of life that are undeniably from God.

If only my heart was always aware of that richness…

And then I realize my personal context. In this next year, I may very well be entering into a season of desert. It hasn’t occurred to me until the last few weeks that I am scared to the bone. I am afraid. I am afraid of not being able to find roommates. I am afraid of living alone. I am afraid of going to a new church. I am afraid of being forgotten. I am afraid I am in the wrong place. Everyone looks at me skeptically. They know the prospects in North County may very well kill me. They keep reminding me of this, as if I myself do not know this prospect of social death to the very core of who I am. It is hard to hide it, but right behind this thinly veiled attempt at faith, I am scared.

Will that fear blind me from seeing the richness of God’s presence? Or will it drive me to search for it even harder? Could it really be that God’s call for me to be in North County is not a call of obligation, but really an invitation to know Him? Is it really true that the price to pay for knowing Him is to join Him in His death? And that I could actually join in His sufferings joyfully?

She did. She suffered in ways I cannot fathom, but somehow was joyful, and somehow managed to bless so many people that they kept streaming up to the microphone, refusing to let the emcee close up the sermon(, with jars and jars of garlic. Who ever knew garlic could be so significant?). She knew her life was not her own, but was poured out as an offering to all those around her. (you know a stranger was a good person when you wish you had met her just from watching your friends mourn her absence)

I want to be that. It’s what my students deserve. It’s what North County deserves. I don’t know if my soul will survive this forced (temporary, for sure, and perhaps slightly illusional) solitude and displacement. It feels like death to me. But perhaps it should be that my soul will perish if it is not constantly brought into those very places of displacement and desert, where I am reminded that true life comes from above. It comes from above, and plentifully, to the point where I no longer have to hold onto it with a scarcity mentality and can give it away freely.

This question of survival keeps echoing in my head. Will you come out alive after these next few years, Daniel? Everyone asks me that. I ask myself that. I ask myself if it is worth it.

It is. Only one year of this half-way life of working in North county, but not living there has been worth it already. Seeing followers realize they are leaders. Seeing hearts transformed. Hearing somebody say “we’re not a club, we’re a movement”. Being challenged to pray by the very people I should be challenging to pray. Being called out. Raising up evangelists. Speaking truth. Making some students stop saying “I’m sorry”. Making other students begin to say “I’m sorry”. Witnessing a community partner with God to bring our friends to Christ. Letting God change me.

If I come out alive or dead (in a very shallow and hollow use of that word), I think the risk of not just working, but living here will be worth it. If I learned so much living half-way, how much more would I gain if I fully lived in North County?

love. death. life. The wedding, funeral and birthday seem to all be blurring into this beautiful, rich and redeemed picture of God’s grace. May my eyes be ever open so that I may never lose sight of that picture.

Love and Death

I don’t usually blog about this subject anymore (IMHO, it is so easy to just whine, and sound pitiful), but as of late, there is nothing to write about. I doubt anyone enjoys these types of entries, but I need to just keep my fingers typing, and my mind expressing its thoughts or it may blow up. Plus, xanga is dying. But seldom do the incessant debates against myself and God in my head die.

several people have asked if I have found a special somebody yet. Actually 3 or 4 people in the last week have just taken me aside and talked to me very concerned that i’ll become a lonely hermit in North County or gay and i’ll never pass on the family name. It is even worse at every wedding I go to back home when people look at me with a strange wink and ask if I’ve swooned some girl into my arms yet.

My confession is that usually, there is always some one on my mind. But lately, there has been this strange liberating feeling that there is nobody’s haunting presence in my thoughts. Or even if I want her to haunt my thoughts, I realize the impracticality of it all. It’s just been how post-college life goes. Everyone disappears. I have to start over. There are attractive people I meet in my job from everywhere- but they are all far away, so I just don’t let the thought creep in with them (at least I try… some stay in my head longer than they need to… but that’s for another entry). Distance.

It is distance. It has really brought me to a place I have to depend on God. I have been debating with God on why I am in San Diego North County. No Chinese people. Not much community. Fresno plopped down onto the coast, and you get Oceanside, CA, where my campus is. It looks utterly boring save that it is next to the beach.

But it is the students. I realized that if somebody offered me a position nearer to San Diego proper, my first instinct would be to take it. But then a huge force would stop me. I would feel it pin me down and make me think longer. That force would be the faces of the students that I work with. I may hate North County, but what has become increasingly clear is that I love these students.

So it brings me to a strange tension. We always talk about developing healthy ministry habits. But we also talk about sacrificing EVERYTHING for the gospel.

Sacrifice even community, at the risk of loneliness? Sacrifice the health of my soul? I need people around me. I need relationship. It comes to the point where it’s not just about being loved by a girl, but really, it’s the prospect of being totally, utterly alone in a place that I’m not sure that I love.

seek ye first the Kingdom of God… and all these things shall be given unto you…

I really wonder if I believe that. This call to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. To die with Christ. I genuinely question it each day. I obediently sacrifice to God, but only in action. My heart is far from obedience.

I need to learn what it means to die. But dying is scary, because you are never sure if you will ever come back to life. And dying is definitely not healthy for our souls.

So back to everyone’s incessant questioning about me and relationships- really… I’ve been forced to adopt the “true love waits” philosophy. I usually hate this philosophy because usually it’s a good mask for our fear of taking what God has given us. That’s what I usually use it for.

But to wait is not insecurity. It is confidence in something greater. Greater than perhaps even the things I wait on. We usually have no problem trusting that God would be the one that is able to provide all things… but I honestly have the biggest problem trusting that God actually knows what to provide for me. His power to provide is not in question, but his omniscience is in question (How silly of me to question such things, eh?).

Really, I just project my past hurts of rejection on God. And perhaps that’s not fair for me to do that.

It’s really that fear of rejection that is core to all of this. Like what if what I’ve been searching for, waiting for, longing for… is right in front of me and I’ve refused to see it that way in order to protect myself from being rejected or disappointed? Perhaps not as much for relationships, but in terms of calling. What if… North County is where God is calling me, but I refuse to let the thought enter my mind… or worse yet… my heart? I fear trusting it fully because it can disappoint. I fear commitment because I know I will put too much of myself into it, and it will hurt more because of that when the commitment proves to be put in the wrong place. It makes me scared of sacrificing and dying for something- because what if what I sacrifice for is something that will in the end hurt me even more?

Layers

In preparation to go back to San Diego, I’ve decided to finally sort through all my stuff that I’ve been lugging around these past 4 years in college. It’s my pre-packing: sort through and see what you don’t need anymore. There have been some boxes i’ve been taking everywhere I live. I just take them. It’s the easiest way to move. I kept intending to sort them out. But after four years, this is the first time I have sorted through this stuff- some of it 5-6 years since I’ve seen this stuff.

Much like how it is with my room, the junk that I have is actually more like sedimentary rock. Each layer is different, from a different time, with different stories…

It’s funny how this has become such a spiritual experience. Ever since I have graduated, i haven’t felt like I have reached a point of closure on this last season of life. I even took a retreat to try to reflect, and I barely scratched the surface. I changed so much, my perceptions have changed so much… As I blew the dust away from papers, mementos, gadgets… the fullness of these 4 years all of a sudden became a reality.

old papers for communications… I could see my progress from not understanding a shred of the material to becoming a person who understood and could critique every author they threw at me… and the beginnings of my attempts at giving practical edge to my young passions and ideals. I would look at past papers that I got C’s on from TA’s in the beginning of college. I realized I never read them, and realized I should never have hated those TA’s, because all over those papers were some of the most heartfelt encouragements and challenges for me to try harder, perceive deeper, to not complain but critique, to understand.

gifts from students in china. I can still see their faces in my mind. My heart breaks everytime I hear something about China or Hong Kong. No, I haven’t forgotten China… the memories are burned in my mind. The scars are etched there. I still remember hundreds of students running after my bus in tears, saying goodbye. I still remember the kids at LSV asking me if I will be like the other missionaries who just leave… and I was put in a silent shock and just looked at them sadly, because… yes. I would be just like the rest.

old diaries… one from junior high. I can’t believe how much I was in love with Jesus. I honestly miss that fire. I remember staying up into the late hours, on my knees, trying to feel what people kept describing to me… that fire, that presence… of the Mysterious Other. I was (and perhaps still am) such a charismatic kook, and I can’t believe how much I chased after God. I am so jaded and disillusioned these days. I long for the childlike faith I once had. When “revival” was not a tainted phrase to me, and it was something I would scream for, yell for, cry for, beg for… Perhaps “revival” has been replaced by “the kingdom”, but even with more understanding, I feel my passion is in desperate need of resurrection. There would be entries where I wrote in big letters that were etched so hard that they tore the pages… “FIRE” “KINGDOM COME!” “REVIVE US”.  Sure, I have gained what I think is wisdom, but have I sacrificed my heart to earn it? I found several papers I used to have taped on the walls that I used to write down prayer requests and intercede for people. So many prayers answered that I forgot… Have I forgotten how to pray too?

Side by side to those entries are twice as many confessions of my insecurity about friendships, about relationships, about having influence, about leadership, about wanting to flee from church politics, but finding that no matter where I went, systems were broken, and I was a part of that system. These insecurities still haunt me today, but I have grown to understand and engage them better. But they are still there.

There are forms and applications, there are brochures for grad school, there are so many things. So many plans to do things that I never did, and absolutely no plans to be an Intervarsity staff. It is finally dawning on me that this era in life is coming to a close. But more exiting, a new era is coming. A new season. These last four years were rich in experiences and relationships. I am so thankful for what I have experienced. In a way though, this next season is not so new- it is probably going to be just a reiteration of what I have already experienced only in new mediums and contexts of experience.

UCSD- you were good to me. All the professors, TA’s, the suitemates, 706, 1600 building, mahaila, easter, the bible study leaders, the friends, the lessons, the cafeterias, the libraries, the hours of prayer, the times of laughter, the times of committing heresy, the times of delightfully fun sin, late nights eating burritos, even every rejection, the times of just living. Thanks.

But UCSD, it’s time for me to leave. This layer of my life is but a fossil now. But what is in front of me is the present- Sure, I can already label it before I have even experience it- Ministry, career, growing up, “settling”… but what it really is: open skies, alive, unknown and unexplored.

Ministry- a strange dynamic of power

(wow a nonsensical string of semi-concious thoughts… welcome to the madness of my mind)

Of course doing ministry is a humble profession. The pay’s not the greatest, the hours aren’t so great, you have to selflessly hold other people up and continually encourage them.

But it’s funny. I’ve noticed that somehow, a power dynamic is formed when you are on ministry. Of course, ministry is the expression of Christ’s love, which is compassion. Compassion means to “suffer with”. It is an act of downward mobility. But somehow, one is viewed as a saint, so in humbling oneself, he or she is viewed as superior to other people. It’s such a weird dynamic to think about. And it’s weirder how it plays out in relationships. People who were once your peers look at you differently. I’ve always been insecure about that. I hate lording power over people who should be my friends. It’s easy for me to be a leader of people in ministry, but when it comes to those that are closest to me (my friends), it is hard for me to lead them. On one hand, I don’t know how to reconcile my role as a friend with being a minister, and who I should be when I’m around my friends. On the other hand, they know who I really am beyond my ministry identity. So it’s hard for them to hear my voice when I challenge or try to speak wisdom. One of my friends actually told me something along the lines of… “you’re full of s!@#, Daniel. I know you’re just being a comm major.”

Okay, that goes into a whole other realm- my struggle of having a degree in communications, which is basically a degree in marketing, which is a degree in “presentation”, which is a nice way of describing my degree in telling the near truth (lying, b.s., etc.). But the point of that is that I have so many parts of my identity. I have trouble confining it all into the category of ministry. Or rather, I am troubled at how easily compartmentalized ministry is, and how limited of a scope that is. It’s rather frustrating. It hurts when people confine me to just one identity.
I have a punk rock friend who just saw my facebook. He saw that my political views were “very liberal”. He began to ask me how I could say that if I really loved Jesus. He’s had so many people criticize him at church for being liberal that he just left. He couldn’t comprehend how I could actually say “very liberal”, especially since I wasn’t exactly liberal in high school. There’s a politics dynamic there, and then there is the assumption from only knowing a past Daniel.

I’m really tired of the assumptions sometimes. There are people who I swear are avoiding me just because they heard I am now doing ministry. I kind of wish that I didn’t have the title sometimes so that I could just minister to them as a friend. They don’t invite me to parties anymore because there is alcohol… or they think they can’t share things that are viewed as sinful because I would condemn them.

It’s a little funny though. It’s the total opposite extreme in other circles. I’m seen as a pagan because of things I believe or things that I say. So a cuss word slips out once in a while. So I tell high schoolers it could be okay to date (true love waits, but sure doesn’t procrastinate!). So I think Barak Obama has some okay things to say. So I watch futurama. So I might actually be a real person.

What i’m getting to in this rant is that it seems that to be a minister, one must become totally inhuman, and to become a real person, one must become a complete pagan. This doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus came and he ministered out of becoming completely human. (They say humanism is dangerous to Christianity, but I think this is the redemption- that God’s strategy to save humanity was to become more human). His identity as being the Son of God was highly disputed, but He was able to retain that integrity.

I’m trying desperately to find out how Jesus’s power dynamic in ministry is reached. In His weakness, not his popularity, was God’s love shown. Ministry drove him to be able to relate so much easier to those around Him, not harder. His radical relationship with God did not destroy his earthly relationships, but formed the drive and basis on which he related to all those around him.

I am many things. All the assumptions people make are not lies. They are all truth. But I’d say everyone has an incomplete view of me. They all know me based on the context of our relationship. But really, I live in the flux between several contexts. I have several identities, and they are all me. They do not compromise who I am- they form who I am. People always say that people put on masks depending on who they are with, but rarely show who they are. Those that are able to show who they are consistently are seen as the most confident and mature. The problem is, sometimes I’m not sure if there’s anything but masks in my identity. Perhaps I’m just an amalgamation of all the assumptions of others. The social construct of the societal contexts that I find myself suspended in.

But then again, there’s something else to me. beyond all the assumptions of others, beyond my assumptions… there’s a child that is loved by God. Before all the assumptions, before all the reputations… there is a child that was created and loved by a powerful God. I have trouble believing that sometimes. Could that really be at the center of who I am? Could I really find confidence in that?

Let’s hope so. Jesus was fully aware of his identity as fully human, but he was also fully aware that he was accepted and loved by God. Putting those two into balance were what made him such an effective minister. I can only hope I can bring my “ministry identity” to that place of balance.

I’m not sure how to end this. I don’t have clear cut answers for mysel-

(end)

Follow it up!

one of the ideas I have for writing a book is to bring up the parallels between evangelism, fundraising and relationships. It’s a devious plan that I have, I know, but i think it would sell.

One parallel I have been seeing, at least between evangelism and fundraising is the issue of follow up. I’ve realized that

  1. If I don’t follow up in evangelism, it doesn’t really matter that I brought the person to Christ. The person will just disappear on me.
  2. If I don’t follow up in fund raising, I simply won’t really get support from anybody even though they intend to support me.
  3. Follow up can’t be too pesky, but it’s even worse if it’s too passive.
  4. I suck at follow up. Either I’m too forward about it, or I just don’t try at all. It takes work for me, and often, I don’t invest enough time and energy into it.

Now can this parallel carry over to relationships? ha. i’m not sure. But I do suppose… many people tell me the hardest part isn’t getting a person to like you, it’s what you do after that. It’s like the relationship doesn’t get easier and requires less work, it is actually more work.

One day i’ll figure out if that’s true or not i suppose. Until then, the book cannot be written until I have experience. hahahaha.