Departures are just the beginning of a long journey home

I’m leaving today to the UK… This morning as I reflect, it’s hard to believe I’ll be on the other side of the world after this flight.

For most of this last week, many of my anxieties have sprung from me not knowing what to expect in Europe… today, seeing news of a shutdown Trump rally and beautiful stories of protest,  my mind has started to wander further into the future. Technically, the destination for my camino is Santiago (or Muxia if I want to follow in Martin Sheen’s steps haha)- but this morning, I’m thinking about how, really, every journey’s real destination is home.

I’ve been so dialed into the happenings around us; into the political scene; into the the polarizations of politics and race… It will be strange to be unplugged from that.. I wonder what America will look like when I return. I’ve actually not thought of this much. In fact, most of my motives for this trip are quite introspective (I had a friend look at me inquisitively with a raised eyebrow, and asked if it was safe to be so introspective)- so I just haven’t really thought in those grand scales of the state of society… But things are changing, shifting and moving in the US. I wonder if the America’s conscience will finally awaken… or if our generations-old structures of brokenness will weight us down.

…but as I write that, I realize I have the same questions for myself in my life- will my deep, created goodness formed in me by my Creator awaken? Or will I be forever weighed down by the sin and brokenness I have inherited?

In ways, I’m looking for my Steinbeck East of Eden “timshel” (translation: Thou mayest)- in which the characters negotiate the expectations of others in their roles as protagonists and antagonists on account of their family line… and finally, in the end, they finally hear the underlying, freeing timshel of their true Creator. The true gospel frees us to emerge out of the bonds of our inescapable sin and brokenness… and choose the good life God intended for us. If I want to see that freedom for my country, my church, my family, my staff team, my students… I guess I’ll need to experience some of that myself.

Advertisements

The Camino Beckons

The Camino is beckoning me, I’m two days away. I’m excited. I’m nervous.

IMG_1492

No, not the Camino. Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos. I got stuck here after sunset a couple weeks ago doing a practice hike… scary hiking at night through woods without a flashlight!

People ask if I feel ready… I’ve bought my tickets, most of my lodging is figured out in UK and Paris, and I have my train tickets, I’ve been assembling my pack and weighing my load, and I feel like I alternate between going to REI and Sports Basement each day.

…But no, I really don’t feel ready. In some ways, I would ironically feel more at peace going to China- it’s actually the only country I’ve gone to outside of North America, and even with all the weird T.I.C. (This is China) idiosyncrasies of China… Europe is a foreign place to me in comparison. There is so much unknown, it’s hard to tell if I’m ready or not logistically… and then my soul- …yeah my soul.

If you haven’t been able to tell from my last post… I’ve been feeling just a tad… angsty lately. In a way, I knew this would happen, but at the same time, I didn’t really anticipate so much underneath the surface. Just boiling angst about everything from white supremacy to too many people having assumptions, opinions and expectations of me to somebody coming 10 minutes late because of traffic… I didn’t realize how much anger there was under the surface.

So my solution has been to take “practice hikes”. In fact, right after angrily typing out my last post in a huff, I slammed my laptop closed, got in my car to Rancho San Antonio and started hiking- for what I had planned as an 1 hour 3 mile hike at 4:30pm. But as I climbed up that hill, seeing ridge after ridge, with each bend revealing a new vista… I just kept walking. There was something cathartic about walking… stride after angry stride, I kept stomping up the hill, until I forgot I was taking steps and just kept going forward.

IMG_2816

Before I knew it, I had walked over 4 miles and was looking out at the clouds rolling down over the coastal ranges into the San Francisco Bay during the sunset… It was such a moment of peace, only to be interrupted by the realization that I would have to hike over 4 miles after sunset.

And there was something peculiar as I trudged through the woods in the dark, trying to make out the slightly brighter coloration of the path, and thinking every dark tree stump was a mountain lion- I just felt lighter. In fact, as I got to the car to find a ticket on my windshield because I had stayed in the park after the closing time… I laughed.

Vulnerable confession- I’ve had a deep fear during this sabbatical. I know that it’s common for one’s ugliness, sin and brokenness to be revealed during a time of rest- but eventually revealing the deeper currents of the Father’s grace for even those ugly parts of oneself, and to be reminded of that we were indeed created in His image, to find the true human being who can only be revealed by Grace …My fear has been that I would go through this sabbatical and just find how deeply sinful I am and that I wouldn’t find that deeper current of Grace within me. I’ve been afraid of peeling back the layers only to find rotting trash underneath, and as I’ve engaged with the stench of how broken I can be, I’ve started to not be sure if His Grace is strong enough to make me whole, especially to those deep layers…

…But the choice I make is to hope. I choose to hope that my angry trudging up the paths will be transformed into joyful laughter.

Jesus, God who incarnated Himself to walk among us… as I walk on this path ahead of me, remind me that You have not left my side, you continue to walk alongside me as brother, even as I feel my path is lonely and I prove to be sometimes a miserable and angsty companion- You’ve already walked this path, you are not afraid. 

If you want to follow me during these next 7 weeks, because I won’t have my laptop, I’ll be updating on my instagram (https://www.instagram.com/daniel_looks/) and my tumblr (http://daniellooks.tumblr.com) because of the shorter format. All posts will be cross posted onto the tumblr.

Simmering Below, Unpredictable Eruptions

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

I am an angry person.

After 2 months of sabbatical, this was my new (but not so new) revelation from my introspection.

People who don’t know me so well often raise an eyebrow. I’m such a gregarious personality on the outside, always ready with a cheesy joke said at the most inappropriate time.

But simmering below is a cauldron of frustration and unquenchable rage… and people who know me have seen it- whether it was my childhood tantrums, my high school mopiness, or the slamming down of the beer glass at the bar while yelling obscenities about a situation- people have seen it and sometimes it shocks people… and somehow- although it has happened repeatedly in my life- it has always shocked myself as well, along with a hangover of shame for the next few days that I had lost control.

During these 2 months of sabbatical, there have been moments of peace. There have been opportunities to unwind, to read things I haven’t been able to read without a deadline, to reconnect with friends whom I value- but throughout it all, there has been an underlying buzz of anger in me that bursts out of me at the smallest things… whether it be an assumption someone makes about me, or someone cutting me off on the freeway, or hearing a Sunday message I don’t agree with- the underlying buzz has come much closer to the surface in these last couple months, and has erupted out of me much more than I’d like to admit.

And I have to come to terms that this is not just some alternative Hyde to my Jekyll… This is me, and I am not ignoring an insane element in me, but I have tried to silence this part of me for so long and have never been successful at it.

I am an angry person, I am angry about so many things- some things true, some things not- but I am so damn angry.

  • I am angry at the media shit-storm I experienced last year over a stupid yelp review
  • I am angry at the isolation I felt in North County as an Asian American for 7 years.
  • I am angry that I had to sit through so many stupid racist assumptions and jokes about me those years.
  • I am angry at that feeling that I have had to fight for people to pay attention to community colleges for so many years, while watching students actually physically die…
  • …I am so angry that I got left having to take care of Anthony the week before he died.
  • …I am angry that I couldn’t tell something was wrong with Alfred’s health when I drove him home a few days before he passed.
  • I am angry at the cluelessness and generalizations people have made of my ministry.
  • I am angry that people assume that I am just a bunch of loud jokes like I can’t handle “real things”.
  • I am angry at the trauma I’ve experienced through watching my home church fracture and split so many times over the years
  • I am angry at the religious manipulation I have experienced in my years as a Christian, that has driven so many of my friends from church
  • I am angry at whoever taught me that to be a leader is to pretend that I am invincible, that nothing bothers me, I am angry that I am taught to bottle it all up, I am angry at people calling me “dramatic” when I finally decide to voice my anger
  • I am angry that I feel so incompetent these days at my job

… the list goes on. And the thing is- this anger can be so righteous. In fact, it’s one of my strongest drivers in ministry, it’s what makes me want to protect people, it’s what makes me want to take risks, it’s what spurs me to prophetically call out the fake counterfeits and to challenge people to hope for something truer and more real…

…but there have been times during these last two months (and throughout my years in ministry) when I just feel like I’ve been oozing  bitterness… It feels gross. It feels un-cleanable and unloveable. There are times my anger is holy fire, but there are other times my anger is thick tar that covers and chokes my being.

And I have been like the bitter elder son outside of the house, full of resentment…

“Everything I have is your’s…” says the Father.

My fists clench. I want to celebrate. I want to have joy. But I just feel too toxic to receive it.

I am like the disciples, feeling alone and desperate in a sea of 5000 hungry people and not knowing how to feed them all. I am angry with the Father telling me to feed all these people when I barely have enough to feed myself. I feel bitter, toxic cynicism as the little boy brings 5 tiny loaves and 2 fish to Jesus…

…but as I watch him break the bread, and see the pieces of bread multiply abundantly, more than even the 5000 need… I realize that in the deepest part of my being, I want to be a part of this- but I feel so ashamed of my anger, my bitterness, of my cynicism. He looks intently at me until I look back into His eyes.  He repeats, “Everything I have is your’s…”

I look away. And He is so angry at these vendors in the temple court of my heart, that I have built, cheating myself out of receiving His love, putting imaginary fees on the gift of His grace that He has already paid so dearly for. Rage flickers in his eyes and his chest heaves in exasperating gasps as He throws the tables aside, yelling at the top of His lungs, “This place is to be a house of prayer, of communion with me, but you have made it a den of robbers!”

And in the midst of that underlying buzz of anger in my being- at myself, at everyone else, at God… within His being is an underlying song of grace, building up, ready to burst forth in the holy fire of that deep violent compassionate twisting of His stomach that I am starving because I am cheating myself from experiencing His love, constantly beckoning me to come back in, ready to give me more than I could ever imagine instead of always exiling myself outside the house with resentment and imaginary rules, showing me it is safe to give all of myself to Him because He has already given me all of Himself, and it is more than I could have ever imagined receiving…

God, overturner of tables and gentle Father who beckons me in- teach me that angry gentleness, that violent compassion, that grace that rips veils… and I know- first, before I can imitate it, I have to allow my heart to be engulfed in that same Grace.

 

 

 

 

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.

Tagged

Hope

Hope is not an obliviousness to broken reality or a sentiment fueled by avoidance of hard things- it is a discipline of faith that even in the most broken and dead things, that life can still yet be found in the in the rubble.

…not that I’m in expert in such things. Ninety percent of the time I’m really writing these things to myself.

…Lord, revive hope in me. Give my hands strength to dig through the rubble and to keep digging for life even when all seems utterly destroyed. Restore real vision to my eyes to see the radical and risky potentiality that Your kingdom brings into all things.

Lord, show me what you mean when You say, “I make all things new”.

Teach me to hope again.

On Apologies and Forgiveness: New Developments in My Starbucks Yelp Review

I was exhausted yesterday… and it was only 3pm.

I had been attempting all day to do work, but calls, emails and interview requests about my Yelp review kept coming up. Most of these interviews have been great, and I’ve been able to have great conversations about race, Starbucks and real reconciliation. Others hadn’t gone so great- one radio station host’s questions were insinuating I was making too big of a deal about the whole thing and what I had encountered was not racism (his words, basically, “I admire Asians and their hard work… don’t you think you’re making too big of a deal for having it so good as a people group?”). Suffice to say, I was completely exhausted from being a medium viral sensation… breaking the Asian-American internet is an energy-demanding venture.

Then the phone rang. It was an executive leader for Starbucks. He said he wanted to hear what had happened in my own words. I began to tell him the events again, thinking this was customer service further investigating… when it dawned on me as I was telling the story, that this might just be…

…”Well, Daniel. I want to let you know that I am that person.”

Wow.

He went on to apologize for what he had done. He explained that he was speaking to another customer who told him that he (the customer) was looking at the store’s concept in order to bring it overseas. This customer pointed in our direction and said, “I’m with my friends over there to see how we can do something similar overseas”. Assuming that we were this customer’s partners, he came up to us after the meeting let out, began leading a tour with the people in the meeting and saw that we were still sitting at the counter. It was then that the events described in my yelp review unfolded.

Now I know- it still raises a few questions- Should I trust this exec’s story? Should I believe that there was a person of whom “I can’t even remember what he looks like” that pointed directly at us, conveniently saying that we were actually there to steal secrets? Some of it just seemed too perfect of a storm to believe…

…but then my mind snapped back and remembered the comments I’ve received on some public sites. I remembered some very hurtful statements, saying that I was doing this all for money or attention (to which my response is… I DIDN’T PLOT TO HAVE THIS REVIEW EXPLODE LIKE THIS… but trolls never listen). I remembered racist comments people would say, saying that I was just race baiting, I should fall in line because Asian Americans aren’t really oppressed and that I should grow thicker skin. I remember hating that a lot of these comments showed that there were so many people that assumed the worst in me. And I realized- I can’t stoop down to their level.

But I also couldn’t back down on how hurtful and uncomfortable the situation was. I couldn’t just pretend like it didn’t happen, and I’m not helping the situation by glossing over it like it wasn’t a big deal.

…So I told him that it was hurtful and left me feeling uncomfortable…

It was. EVEN IF it was justified because we were accused by someone else, the fact that we got lumped in as Chinese spies is a stereotype that is hurtful. I was born in the United States and am a citizen. For better or worse, I love this country and its ideals- that my physical complexion and ethnicity is a reason to feel suspected of sedition and robbery of the country that I am a citizen of- that is hurtful. It’s degrading to question my trustworthiness on account of my culture. And whether he had hostile motives or not- what matters is the outside action hurt and it made me feel unwelcome- not just to the store, but to the opportunity, ideals and vision of the country I was a citizen of.

…But I then told him, even acknowledging that real pain, that I wanted to extend grace and forgive him.

As I was in that conversation, I realized the tough balance that real forgiveness and reconciliation requires- that reconciliation is the restoration of each other’s humanity- both the wronged and the wrongdoer. But in the midst of that, for real reconciliation, the wronged doesn’t back down from the reality of his or her hurtful experience. It’s a choice to fully acknowledge in each other the vulnerable imperfect humanity in within, and choose to say “I will call you my brother or sister” instead of relegating the offender as “other”. This executive is also a human being, and I do the same orientalizing (read: Edward Said’s Orientalism if you want a fuller explanation of that term) alienation that those of western descent have historically done to those like me as someone with Asian descent if i leave him locked up as an evil perpetrator of injustice. Although we have different socio-historical forces that influence us towards evil and injustice… we are but the same in our potential towards evil. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

So he thanked me.

I’m not sure if he understood completely the complexities of forgiveness and the mental battle it takes for me not to sweep the wrong done to me under the rug and yet to press in to see his humanity… but I keep in the forefront of my mind that this executive who made these highly inappropriate jokes and myself as well- we have the same potential for wrong… but he also has the same potential for good. So I make the choice to believe in this man’s potential for goodness and for the image of God to be revealed in him.

The exec invited me to come back to the store again at some point. I’m not sure how I can afford to get a plane ticket back to Seattle, but I think that it will be worth it if I get to grab that cup of coffee with him- because for all the criticism I could give to Starbucks as a corporation (their partnership with Monsanto, gentrification, etc.), I do admire their goal and philosophy of creating communal spaces where friendship and family can occur. But as I’ve said before, REAL friendship and REAL family- especially in our diverse country caught up in the lie of “post-racial” America- is messy and hurts… and I hope that I can dive into the mess with this exec over some coffee, because I believe that it’s worth the mess and pain.

Let’s hope I can find a way back to Seattle to have that coffee.

—-

Some of you may be wondering why I won’t outright say this man’s name. While it would help my personal cause to put this man’s name on blast, I feel that it would be deconstructive towards real reconciliation and understanding. Here are some reasons why:

  • I want this man to experience forgiveness and restoration, not shame.
  • While my goal is forgiveness and restoration, I know that the internet is not a forgiving place. I’m not here to destroy Starbucks or this exec’s life; I want to model what it looks like to restore- and not even really for the “internet world” (although I feel our country needs real examples of reconciliation), but because I know I need to have integrity with the teachings of forgiveness, reconciliation and humility that I preach to those because of my work with Intervarsity and for the other communities that I influence.
  • I’ll also add- if this man is dragged out in a witch hunt and crucified for his insensitive and racist comments towards me- when do you think Starbucks will try again to actually engage issues of race? Their #racetogether campaign already failed, and I’m betting they’re feeling skittish about re-engaging with the race conversation. However, I want them to try again, and to succeed at opening constructive conversations about race, because honestly, we need as much dialogue as possible in our country’s race conversation, irregardless if it’s individuals, communities or corporate entities.

To the starbucks exec- it would mean a lot of there was a public apology. It would silence some of those horrible commenters saying I’ve made up the whole thing. But I can’t force that on you, and that really isn’t my goal. I’ll repeat what I want- I simply want to meet up with you, hear your story, share mine… and hopefully share a small sliver of the gospel dream of multiethnic, multicultural reconciliation and shalom that has utterly captured my heart and motivates the work I do as a minister with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Let’s get that coffee appointment organized, eh? 

On Speaking Out Against Starbucks (or “…all I really wanted was some coffee”)

IMG_1726

My bad panaroma picture on the day I was at starbucks

Recently, I was doing some catch up on my yelp reviews and decided to write about a recent experience I had during my visit to Seattle at Starbucks’ cutting edge new coffee shop that showcased modern coffee techniques and rare coffee beans (link). I had experienced a rather unpleasant brush with some racist jokes by a corporate employee there, and thought it’d be good to write about it in my review. It wasn’t a new thing for me- in my years working in North County San Diego, I’ve had many instances of minority micro-aggression, and Yelp had been one of the places where I could express my frustrations at the experiences of prejudice and racism being one of the few Asian-Americans in a military town… And usually, my reviews would get a couple chuckles, but would simply get lost in the cacophony of the cloud. I didn’t think anyone paid attention.

I closed my computer, and proceeded to pack for a spring break camp that I was staffing for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the organization that I work with. It was out of cell phone range and there was limited wifi there for only official business.

Imagine my surprise when I went online to send a quick time-sensitive work email to see that I had created a medium disturbance in the Asian-American internet world. My yelp review had been shared multiple times on Facebook. I had interview requests from a couple news outlets. I was featured on the Angry Asian Man blog, an extremely respected blog and voice for Asian America (of which I frequently read as well). All of a sudden my review with questionable grammar was being shared and I was a mediocre viral celebrity.

Resonse From Others

I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people about the review. They fall in these categories:

  • Skepticism: “How can we trust you?” Yes, I know- Yelping is not the most reputable platform (chefs publicly rant about entitled yelpers all the time). And no, I don’t have hard data- I have only my experience. This has been an interesting response from a few people- I saw some comments in which the sharer’s friend was convinced I was lying or that the corporate employee was in fact just some guy in a suit who wanted to be racist to me. Although things could very well be proved (I could find the barista, I could find the security tapes…), and I have a very solid reputation as a yelp reviewer (I have been an elite for 4 years), when it is a story of injustice, somehow it’s instilled in us to not trust the story of the victim. It was a small taste of victim-blaming and voice delegitimization that happens in situations of abuse, prejudice and racism. It’s interesting how our society can quickly cover up real injustice by relegating it to the imagination of the victim. It’s also interesting that I felt tempted to fall in line with those accusations. However I will stand by what I said with clear conscience- I did not make this up. My experience was real and not imagined.
  • Shock and Anger: “How could this happen?” Other reactions were reactions of horror. How could this happen in Seattle, one of the most diverse cities in America? How could a corporate employee not know that his comments were not appropriate that his joke insinuating that my friend and I were Chinese spies was not funny but hurtful? How could Starbucks, a company that claims to be so progressive, allow such a bad miss by its corporate representative? “Let’s boycott Starbucks!” “They better repay you… or sue them.” While I am angry with my friends at this situation… it also opens a window into the state of our “post-racial” society. You see- I was angry, but for me, having lived in a community without that many Asian-Americans for 7 years, I had self-destructively bottled up my anger in a state of internal micro-aggression. The shock and anger, on one hand, revealed how hidden the everyday forces of racism were to many of my friends and community. On the other hand, it revealed how, out of my own internalization of anger, I had began to delegitimize my own voice and anger by silencing it in myself.
  • Relief: “Thank you.” But in the midst of all of this, I noticed another sound in the chaotic response to my yelp review- a sigh of relief. I realized I had tapped into a common experience that many Asian Americans and other minorities in America have experienced- and that they, like me, had began to internalize it in resignation to the prejudice and racism that they experience every day. It was a sigh of gratitude that at least something was being paid attention to, in a time in our country where heinous examples of racial injustice are just swept under the rug and kept from trial. And no- the stupid jokes I got are nothing compared to the treatment of my Latin@ friends as second class citizens or the trauma my black brothers and sisters have experienced in this last year with the multiple counts of untried violence against their young men- but we are all disserviced by the false narrative of our postracial society that attempts to put a whitewash over our stories of racial injustice when we decide to ignore our stories of pain, no matter how big or small. A wound won’t heal if you hide it from the doctor… instead, it festers and gets infected. Healing and reconciliation won’t come from a cover-up, but it comes from exposing it so it can be cleaned, dressed and healed. Perhaps the sigh of relief was from seeing that an experience similar to their own was actually paid attention to.

“So… What do you want from this?”

That was the question that a news reporter recently asked me when interviewing me about this. In reality, I hadn’t written the review with any real motive to get anything from Starbucks. It was just a review, one of the many that I write- some better, some worse. Really, I didn’t have a set goal for what I wanted– but after having this whole thing blow up, it’s made me really think about what I want out of this.

Jokingly, a lot of my friends have talked about how much free stuff I’m going to get and to share “shut-up” money if it comes to that. In fact, a customer service representative from Starbucks has already been in conversation with me and has promised a “gift” to me on my starbucks card (which hasn’t shown up…  but eh Edit: $50 appeared in my account last night) as they further investigate what happened at the Starbucks Roastery. And hey- honestly, I’m addicted to coffee, and I’ll take it… but reparation is not what I want.

Some wonder how far I really want to take this. It’s not really an Asian American value to speak up- you don’t want to be the nail that sticks out, because it will be hammered down. We value peace and harmony, not speaking up. But if there’s one conviction I have gained working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, building and advancing multiethnic witnessing communities- it’s that sweeping things under the rug is not real peace. That fake kind of harmony is nice and pretending it didn’t happen would be a lot less stress… but I won’t settle for that.

The peace that my religious convictions as a Christian speak of are rooted in the Hebrew concept of shalom– a peace that comes from wholeness on every level- physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Shalom is translated as peace, but it is also translated as justice- and justice is something deeper than a surface level image of “diversity”. Shalom hurts because it demands real engagement with pain and systemic injustice. Shalom requires self-sacrifice. The peace talked about in my faith is a peace that was bought by a God who chose to fully engage and immerse Himself in personal and systemic evil head-on by being with us in our brokenness as Jesus and even became a victim of it Himself. It is from this self-sacrifice that He conquered evil and death in order to afford us not just surface level peace and harmony, but deep reconciliation and wholeness.

This is what I want- I want real dialogue about race. I actually admire Starbucks for being a corporate entity that desires to take progressive stands of inclusion. I admire their desire to have the race conversations in their #RaceTogether campaign. But if they really want to engage in subjects like race and inclusion, it’s going to take more than corporate policies and PR campaigns. It needs to start from the deep places where racist tendencies fester because we don’t talk about it. It needs to start from speaking in truth about stories of hurt… and allowing the chance for reconciliation. This is what I want- I want Starbucks to live up to its progressive outside image. As a Christian, I want to see shalom- complete wholeness and reconciliation. I speak up not to complain- yelpers get a lot of bad press for being entitled whiners. I also am not speaking up just to rock the boat just for rocking’s sake, just disturbing everyone around me with rage and frustration. I speak up because I recognize my responsibility as a citizen to offer my story up for the good of society. I speak up out of responsibility as a Christian who has been captured by the dream of not just surface level peace, but of deep shalom and wholeness in relationships, including with this corporate employee who humiliated me… I have compassion on him.

Because really, all I want is a real conversation with that corporate employee, to hear his story, and to maybe offer a glimpse of what that dream of deep shalom and reconciliation could look like in real life outside of a publicity campaign or a company policy- and maybe we could do it over a cup of coffee.

On the run (i.e., a window into Daniel’s self-therapy)

…left, right, left right…

…breathe in, breathe out…

I woke up this morning with this enormous weight of insecurity and inadequacy. After about an hour of moping, I realized I needed to get out and run.

Just as my physical legs were in need of movement under the cool overcast sky this morning, my mind needed to run itself out of this place.

Transition is hard. There are times I’m running full speed, not feeling… and then I stop and I realize how tired I can get. It’s tiring to navigate expectations. It’s tiring to try to adjust to those expectations. It’s tiring to realize that as I adjust to those expectations, it creates assumptions from others what my true self is… and then in turn causes me to take a double take on what I thought was the true me… I found myself ranting to my spiritual director that I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. The Bay Area is a strange place where, in Meyer’s Brigg’s language, people from high school know me as an INFP, my San Diego friends know me as an ENFJ and I have shown myself as an ENFP to those who work with me… well at least the one solid thing in me is the unpredictable intuitive emotion, and it’s probably what brings me to these places of heavy introspection so often. I find myself in constant culture shock- where the familiar I grew up with is so foreign. I find my cultural identity in flux as I must relearn what it means to indirectly communicate again, yet still engage a diverse spread of people around me who still communicate directly. It’s funny how my struggle in North County was all about feeling in between without a sense of “home”… and it seems that feeling has followed me back home.  It’s tiring to constantly put myself out there, not knowing what the results will be; if people will accept what I offer; if people will love me or hate me, or if I accidentally offended someone or stepped on someone’s toes…

As I turn the corner on the street, I start thinking on the past 2 or 3 years… As is usual when I’m in this mood, I start thinking of my regrets. My heart begins to race as I remember the friends I’ve left… some of the closest friends and intimate relationships I’ve ever had. I start to think about the ways that I must have disappointed people. Insecurity wraps around me  in a choking embrace…

But then that familiar whisper shakes me so violently yet gently… remember.

And I start to remember who I was… and who I am becoming. I am not the person I used to be. I am no longer that scared child. I am no longer that insecure unstable person going from one opinion or emotion to the next. I am a Chinese American man who has exposed every part of my identity on every level to the harsh death of the cross and have experienced the rush of resurrection power in my life. And who I am becoming… is a man who is confident in the cultural identity as a Chinese American that God has given me; a man who passionately pursues the lost; a man who stands as an advocate for those who do not look like me, communicate like me or live like me; a man who empowers women, partners with them and has been blessed to be led by them; a man who prays prophetically with vision no matter how unlikely that vision is; a man who has passionately loved the “long-shots” like the community college and dared to risk feeling the pain when even my best efforts backfire at me. I am a man that is courageous enough to risk bringing everything I have confidently to the table, even when I know there is chance for rejection, pain and loss… because I am not defined by those things but by His love.

…And it was as if I wasn’t breathing this whole time and my lungs forgot how to pump air in and out, all while running full speed ahead… and I finally gasped for the air that my heart needed. I gasped for the only Voice I needed to listen to.

…breathe in, breathe out…

…left, right, left, right…

And as I turned the final corner with my house and broke into a sprint, I was filled with this strange sense… pushing through and throwing off the shame and self-critique I often find myself in and that so easily entangles myself, especially coming from such a self-deprecating culture…

…I realized…

…I’m proud of who I’m becoming.

gospel.

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians Ch. 1 this morning… when Paul engages the divisions within the church over theological issues, his solution is to go straight back to the Gospel.

The Gospel. The story of the foolishness of surrender and emptying of absolute power. The story of healing. The story of redemption. The story of forgiveness and reconciliation- for both individuals and communities. The story of a God who decided to face death, experience it, and overcame it in His power in resurrection. A story that tells the powerful that their power is nothing compared to that power, and tells the powerless, the oppressed and the victim that this resurrection power is available to them.

It is this story that we need, in a time where divisions- while not always theological, but cultural (but perhaps those categorizations aren’t so helpful)- cost lives.

In the midst of my anger at the news this morning about the City of Cleveland placing blame on Tamir Rice for his OWN DEATH, when he was shot by police in the timespan of 2 seconds of the police’s arrival while playing with a toy gun… In the midst of feeling the weight of the absence of Trayvon, of Oscar, of Michael, of Eric… of so many- I remember how much we need that story.

And yes- it’s too simple for such complicated layers of racism, of cultural divides, of historical trauma, of the diverse yet divided society we live in… But I have to believe in the potency of the Jesus narrative- the gospel- because honestly, I am at a loss at how to respond but to fully express and expose my mourning and lament to the “here but not yet” resurrection power of the gospel.

Protected:

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below: