The Day After


I’m waiting on the resurrection.

Easter happened a little more than two weeks ago. The brass and fanfare, the choruses and lilies all of it giving me that familiar jolt. I was momentarily resuscitated by the promise of life persisting despite death’s clutches. The resurrection as the tenacity of joy, the irresistible power and work of love. The embodiment of hope. I was caught up in it all, and humming Handel’s tunes all day on Monday.

And all around I could feel it. The weather starting to finally turn and the wind blowing sighs of relief throughout the streets. The trees laughing and flowering while crocuses stretch to the sky like children after they wake from an bizarre and rare lengthy sleep. 

The tomb is empty. But, I realize I still am, too. I’m waiting on the resurrection.

I joked with a seminary student that we never stop discerning, but I guess I was serious. I am nearly 38 years old, and I am still seeking out my call. Every day I wonder about my vocation, and what this means as I look at various possibilities and projects in front of me strewn about like all the children’s blocks and Legos and puzzle pieces. It’s paralyzing, sometimes. I want to get a shop vac and clear it all away, and then sit on a bench in a park somewhere and just stare at the sky. But, no. There’s work to do, and responsibilities, and lunches to pack, and where are their damn rain boots? 

Because it’s raining, and these days are dark once again. I drive around in a little bit of a haze knowing that just beyond the rains the sun and heat will scorch the earth, and yes, for sure, though I long for that heat, I will curse the humidity. I catch a glimpse of someone in a dingy camouflage jacket and orange cap late at night pushing a shopping cart full of black garbage bags down Walnut Street. The Interfaith Winter Shelter is done for the season but it still feels like winter hasn’t let go quite yet. I wonder where he will sleep tonight.

After another excruciating attempt at putting the children down for sleep – constant negotiations and the never ending requests for one more apple or one more cup of water or one more story or one more back rub or one more song – I collapse in bed myself. I look at the clock and it’s only 9:30 pm. I will get up one more time to check on them because I love the way they look when they sleep. Desmond sleeps balled up – his body curled and blankets already twisted around and under him as if he had a brief wrestling match with the sheets just before he gave in to sleep. Like Jacob wrestling those nighttime angels except Desmond would wrestle them because he’d assume they stole his superheroes. He is extra vigilant about them at night. Oz sleeps on his side with his mouth open slightly. Cheeks puffed out, and I see those baby days slipping away too quickly. He’s trying to grow up as fast as possible so that he can keep up with the twins. He’s practically there. Anna sleeps on her back with her arms wide open, a posture perfectly expressive of her personality. She takes in the whole world with her whole self. I wait to see their chests rise and fall, and to hear their breathing, and even to see if their eyes will flutter open a little only for a second.

I’m reading the lectionary texts for the Easter season with college students every Monday. Each time I feel a momentary burst of light as though the clouds have moved aside and I’m awash in a warmth that tells me summer really is right around the corner. But I feel the grief and angst of the disciples locked in rooms trying to make sense of the sightings of Jesus. I wonder if each time they see him and touch his wounds if it feels like a reminder of that sun hidden behind the gray. So, like them I want to go back to the former life, what makes sense, and what my mind and body naturally do when I’m trying to sort it all out, fishing for anything that might make sense, but when I pull up the nets they’re empty.

The tomb is empty. I’m waiting on the resurrection.

It’s only the beginning of the Easter season but already the lilies are starting to wilt and the hallelujahs have long faded away. The people are whispering again, Is he really the Messiah? And I am mouthing the same questions, too, even as Jesus responds, I’m here. I’ve got you. 

The day after began two weeks ago and it stretches into the horizon. But, I see the dawn. Though I barely feel the rays beginning to brush my skin, it is enough. It’s enough to keep my heart and arms open, waiting and hoping.

True spirituality is about keeping your heart space open. It is daily, constant work. The temptation is to close down: to judge and dismiss and hate and fear. If you don't have some spiritual practice that keeps your heart open, even in the midst of suffering and 'hell,' it's easy to end up grumpy and filled with fear and negativity. You have to work to live in love, to have a generosity of spirit, a readiness to smile, a willingness to serve. Regularly check in with yourself, asking, 'Is my heart open? Is love flowing from me? Or am I constricted?' ~Richard RohrClick To Tweet

Why Chris Rock Failed Us

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.44.37 PM

I’m not a comedian. I also am not terribly funny although I can tell a decent story or joke once in awhile in a sermon. And maybe after a few drinks. But, not together. Drinks with dinner, I mean. Andy will tell you that I don’t have a grasp of timing and executing punchlines. But, like most anyone else, I love to laugh. I love stand-up comedy – I love Kevin Hart, Margaret Cho, Chris Rock, Louis C.K, Eddie Murphy, Aziz Ansari for the ways they make me engage the realities around me differently.

“Humor is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.” -Mary Hirsch, Humorist

That’s the point of comedy, maybe, besides letting some of the air out of those realities that on many days feels particularly burdensome and unbearable. On the other hand, comedy can hold a mirror up in a way, and force us to confront those uncomfortable realities. It can give social critique and instigate transformation in a creative way. It can make these issues more accessible because it appeals to something that’s basic to humanity: the spoken word and how stories have a way of opening up the world in a fresh way. 

And sometimes, honestly, you just need a good laugh to keep from crying because so much of the world is ugly and horrible.

Now, Andy and I didn’t watch the Oscars because actually we never watch the Oscars, but mostly because we don’t have cable TV, and we got sucked into watching the Crossfit Invitational on the ESPN channel on the ROKU. But, after following it on social media in between #justiceforflint and watching some snippets of Chris Rock’s stand-up, and then reading the reactions of numerous writers, I felt like I didn’t miss much. Because the kind of comedy Chris Rock employed wasn’t his usual thoughtful and intelligent social commentary on race and race relations. 

Akiba Solomon articulated the problems well: Besides disrespecting women, Black women and making light of the history of violence towards black people from lynching to police brutality, “he effectively disappeared an encyclopedia of interlocking issues within the broader movement for racial justice.” He was as Solomon said, a “cliche monster.” He took the despicable (pun intended because Ali G’s joke about the minions) and easy road, and instead of following through with his initial crusade on the blatant racism of #OscarsSoWhite, he became a pawn for the sake of a paycheck and a few laughs from the people who create, perpetuate, and benefit from these white supremacist structures.

It was more than a little disappointing.

So when he paraded out the three Asian kids on stage, which I did see the next morning, I was done. Because those were our kids. On that stage. Being used as props for a bad (at least), confusing (at most) joke about what? What was the point? Slate writer Lowen Liu wrestles with it:

The joke here is garbled at best and doubly offensive at worst. It fails as a satire of Asian jokes, because while it flatters Rock to be one step ahead of the audience, it relies on equally base premises: Asian kids are either accountants or child laborers. But is he talking about privileged Asian Americans, raised in graduate-degree households (at least one with a Jewish parent!) now stocking white-collar jobs? Or is he talking about kids from a mostly rural China, whose population is trying to leap into the middle class by soldering circuit boards? He points to the briefcase-toting tots on stage as if they are a single group, when, of course, they are not. And this is the very misapprehension that undergirds every stereotype about Asians: that they are all the same.

The optics of the bit were an erasure, which is in itself a violence towards me, and people who look like me, my family, my parents, my kids, my home church, a whole host of people who continue to experience daily violence at so many levels and be used as a wedge and scapegoat between communities of color. There was nothing smart about it and nothing productive. Just another reminder that AAPI continue to be used as the token butt of the joke, but that’s okay because all the Asians in this country are doing well and what’s wrong with having a stereotype like that? 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim writes: “White supremacy works when people of color are in disagreement and in tension with each other. White supremacy works when people of color do not support each other and ignore each other’s plight for equality and opportunity. White supremacy works when we continue to speak about racism in binary terms.”

Remember, Stephen Colbert did the same in the spring of 2014. He tried to make a point mocking Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation and in one segment he said “I am willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong, Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Suey Park created #cancelcolbert – she obviously wasn’t serious – but used it to critique white liberals who use forms of racial humor to mock more blatant forms of racism. Because it was a cheap joke – it hit on a narrow image – stereotype – a trope of a minority in order to get a point across. It was the same thing with Chris Rock. Do we really think that it’s okay – it’s helpful or productive – to fight against racism – with more racism?

And so, yes, Chris Rock failed us. Like Anthony Berteaux wrote:

Rock himself has forgotten how the Asian model minority myth has been utilized to relegate Black Americans as a “problem” minority who are lazy and uneducated. It cannot be forgotten that in 2014, Bill O’Reilly used the myth of Asian success and intelligence to discredit white privilege and justify the perception of Black Americans as a “failure” minority.

Good comedy should take the power out of these stereotypes. It should break down those expectations and empower their communities by providing a way for others to see their humanity. Chris Rock failed us by playing right into Oscars that are always so white, to a world that center whiteness and one that ultimately needs those stereotypes and for us to play them out – our bodies, our children, our lives – to prop up these institutions of whiteness. Whether it’s blatant racism or tokenism or the feel-good language of “diversity” and “diverse leaders” that ends up covering up deeper institutional problems like a flimsy multicultural bandaid or the grandstanding of liberal progressives who love to pat themselves on their backs because they work for inner-city agencies – it’s all whiteness. It’s all about whiteness and protecting its towers and pillars. And, what Chris Rock did failed us – his kids, my kids, our kids. Because this humor isn’t made of rubber. It draws blood.

But, failure and success aren’t static realities. I’m hopeful that the conversations that come out of this – and maybe even Chris Rock will be a part of it – they will accomplish so much more than these cheap jokes and stories. Because we can tell better stories. We can and we will.

Parenting Through Brokenness and Insanity

Kindergarten Classroom_3

We attended the open house for the twins’ school next year. They will be in kindergarten. How this is possible, I have no idea, but we’re here. I’m trying to enter into this season with presence and honesty, even though I kind of feel scared shitless.

Because I feel like they’re slipping away from me already.

I know – I’m being a little dramatic. They’re not even five. But there are days when I feel like I have zero influence on their lives. Because either I’m repeating myself a dozen times before they respond or listen or they are doing the exact opposite of what I ask them. 

One morning last week when I dropped them off for preschool, I made a rookie mistake. Heaven forbid, I open the doors or allow anyone else to open the doors, but as we walked in with another family, I saw their littlest reach for the door bumping into Desmond as he grabbed the door handle. So I told Desmond to let Colin open it for us.

Hell hath no fury than an almost-five year old who is deterred from this task.

I watched him have his meltdown and waited as he stomped his feet and screamed through his tears, “I. Hate. School!!!” I said to him, gently, “You don’t hate school. You’re frustrated with Mommy for asking you to let Colin open the door.” He responded with more shrieking, stomping and pounding the air. Finally, I was able to convince him to help me distribute the Valentine’s Day cards to all his friends’ cubbies. We were doing so great, and he was starting to forget the door.

Along comes Ozzie, our youngest.

These two together are a constant train wreck on the verge of happening. Ozzie starts shoving and goading Desmond, which makes him cry even more, of course, and it’s totally derailing whatever progress we’re making with the cards. Finally, Oz punches him, and then I yell at Oz and shove him aside. He falls to the ground and cries like I’ve committed the ultimate betrayal. Et tu, Mommy? 

I’m done. At this point, I leave the rest of the cards on top of the cubbies, throw the lunch boxes in the fridge, and stomp out. Desmond tries to follow me and I say very firmly, and in a not-so-Happy-Mommy voice – “GO TO YOUR CLASS.”

He cries, and turns around.

I get in my car, drive off, and cry at the stoplight.

I know, I’m being a little dramatic. But, they’re about to go off to school-school. I feel like I’ll blink and the next twelve years will be over, and all they will remember is how I yelled at them and left them at school today with my voice in their ears void of any loving support. I know, I know – we all have our days. I know we all have our exhaustion. I know we all have moments where we just can’t hold it together even for the sake of our kids.

One of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one's secret insanity and brokenness and rage. ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First YearClick To Tweet

My mother was never this way in public. She was the prototypical Tiger Mother – hardcore piano lessons, school was the be-all-end-all, and Lord, Lord the emotional manipulation, the screeching and the wooden spoons. But, she was somehow able to keep it together when we were outside of the house. She never raised her voice to us, she never shoved us, and we were never just dropped off in anger or frustration.

Sometimes this patient demeanor would translate into a muteness and reserve. When she didn’t speak up or if she was reticent to participate in conversations with the other parents, I would feel annoyed. Why is she just standing there staring? I would ask myself as I observed her with the other kids’ mothers.

I wonder, though, if being an immigrant had anything to do with her voice when we were out on the playground or at school together. She has always struggled with the language, but it was more than that – she wasn’t comfortable or familiar with the culture around her. Perhaps she felt the depth of her foreignness when the mothers around her chattered about pie recipes or the latest visits with the in-laws. I began to see the origins of that smile she would automatically paste on her face whenever we were out together. A smile to express listening, but one to also cover up the straining-to-understand, and I could almost feel her heart and spirit were somewhere else, on a different shore.

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? It's a sign of bravery.  Those are people who crossed an ocean to come to this country.” ― Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherClick To Tweet

When I look at her now as I stand on this side of motherhood I realize how brave and strong she was with us. How some of that not-so-secret insanity and brokenness and exhaustion we saw glimpses of in the home – what a burden that was to carry for our sake. How she must have carried it alone in so many ways – holding it in private and out there. How grateful I am for the community of mothers and teachers and schools and childcare workers and babysitters and my spouse around me who get it and help me to keep parenting through it all.

I doubt the kids will remember the moments I lose it with them – the screaming, the frustration, and the stomping away, but I will remember, I think. But, I’ll remember the grace, too. I’ll remember the ways my mother kept on, and I’ll remember the ways the kids keep on, I’ll remember how when I picked them up from school, they came to me with squeals and laughter, squeezing my neck, they ran to me as though I’d been away for days and that morning nothing but a wisp of a memory.

Roots and Sky: Book Giveaway and Reflecting on Home


There are a handful of books I’m reading simultaneously – I do that because I’m impatient and want to digest everything at once. Drew Hart’s Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and Diana Butler Bass’s Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution. It’s very random but they all hit various points of need for me right now and in usual fashion, I’m devouring them, which means I am in essence skimming and writing/underlining the parts that slap me in the face.

But, Christie Purifoy‘s book – I’m reading this book by ever so slowly. Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons is a journal of sorts, in which “Christie slowly unveils the trials and triumphs of that first year at Maplehurst [her new home in Pennsylvania] – from summer’s intense heat and autumn’s glorious canopy to winter’s quiet grief and spring’s unexpected mercies. Through stories of planting and preserving, of opening the gates wide to neighbors, and of learning to speak the language of a place, Christie invites you into the heartache and joy of small beginnings and the wonder of a God who would make his home with us.” (From the back cover of the book)

Besides being wowed by her pedigree (degrees in English from University of Chicago – I’m still shallow this way, it’s the Korean in me that’s overly-impressed by people who get their doctorates), I was moved by the depth of theological articulation interwoven in these pages – heartfelt and beautiful, and definitely anything but shallow. It’s providing so much for me right now – perspective, possibility, and joy. Because it’s a sanctuary. It’s a space that is allowing me to come back to myself and one that encourages me to simply pay attention to what is happening around me. There’s something about the genuine and honest way she engages the tension between the ordinary and holy because occupying that space in-between is not easy. But the way Christie writes about this sense of wandering and home, I see that this beautiful struggle is necessary. It’s food for our souls. We need this way of being and seeing not only to survive the everyday but periodically revel in the glory of God’s grace.

'We must learn to walk with God on the ground of our own lives.'Click To Tweet


Somehow I got two copies of this incredible book in the mail. A few of us did and that’s such a sweet surprise because since I love it so much I’m going to have to give it away. I love sending mail and will include a couple of extra little treats with it.

If you’d like to enter to win Christie’s new book each thing you do below will give you a single entry:
1. Drop me a line in the comments section here,
2. Tweet at me on Twitter
3. Like/Follow my Facebook page because though I do post my content there I also post a shitton of other people I read and follow and likely good stuff for you to read, too.

I’ll do the drawing on Tuesday 2/2 (release day!) Consider, seriously, buying it anyway as a gift for anyone who loves beautiful and encouraging stories.

Deeper Story: Orcas, Theology, Gynecology, and a Baptism


An old post:

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent.

My mind is spinning. Is Christmas really this week? As in, 4 days from now. As in, somehow a whole month has flown by. As in, this year is almost over.

Howhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhow is this possible…?

Ok. Breathe. I need to come to terms with this reality. And, it’s fine. It’s really fine. Seriously.

We paused for a moment that night, Andy and I. We watched Blackfish – story of killer whales and how they are exploited. Maybe an odd choice for this season. First movie in a while so we’re a little rusty at choosing movies. Kids were all down. I was folding laundry – willingly – because there was an unusual but welcome peace in the house.  The movie was really compelling and informative, but still…Good God. I mean, please, Jesus help us. I posted on Facebook:

Just finished watching Blackfish. I’m so incredibly depressed. I hate everyone and everything. #humanssuck #allgodscreatures

What felt really the most horrible was watching orca calves be stripped from their mothers. These are creatures that are highly social and have complex family systems – their “languages” are even different for each clan. When the main killer whale in the documentary, Tilikum, was taken from his mother in the Northwestern wild oceans the female orcas stayed nearby wailing their protestation and helplessness. Likewise when calves (remember Shamu?) were taken from their mothers in captivity (like for Seaworld) they recorded the sounds of the mother orca in the pool for 24 hours. The caretakers had never heard that particular sound before and brought in analysts who explained they were doing long range vocals that were truly unique. One of the trainers explained pretty pointedly: “It makes sense. They were grieving.” These orcas were trying to make their voices heard so that the calves would know how to get back to the mothers. But, even in their persistent song, I wonder if they despaired knowing it was futile.

A song of mourning.

...O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear...Click To Tweet

I can’t get those orca sounds out of my head.


Today’s text in church was from Isaiah again but this time with the explicit words about a young woman bearing a child called Immanuel. God-With-Us. Even if it might be exegetically off to totally tie these words to Jesus (a hard lesson in OT101) one can’t help but think of Mary the virgin, and God’s radical proximity to us in that little bundle – the precious bun in the oven. Andy’s sermon was really lovely, and all about what I needed to hear in terms of paying attention – how children and babies demand our attention constantly, whether there’s a pressing need (food, water/milk, dirty diaper, sleep) or simply for cuddles and skin-to-skin contact. 

The attention God gives us is likewise relentless, and undeniably much like a mother that positions herself - literally orients herself - towards her newborn.Click To Tweet

Of course, there’s mention of the virgin birth, and I can’t help but stumble over it again. But, Andy read this great Frederick Buechner quote:

The earliest of the four Gospels makes no reference to it, and neither does Paul, who wrote earlier still. On later evidence, however, many Christians have made it an article of faith that it was the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph who got Mary pregnant. If you believe God was somehow in Christ, it shouldn’t make much difference to you how he got there. If you don’t believe, it should make less difference still. In either case, life is complicated enough without confusing theology and gynecology.

In one sense anyway the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is demonstrably true. Whereas the villains of history can always be seen as the products of heredity and environment, the saints always seem to arrive under their own steam. Evil evolves. Holiness happens.

Man. Buechner both kills me (in terms of humor…for some reason I laughed out loud – it felt loud since I was the only one in the pews around me – after hearing the words “theology and gynecology”) and wrecks me (in terms of feeling something that’s buried so deep come rushing to the surface like a whale that breaches the ocean waves and with a splash disappears beneath leaving a little frothiness behind).

Holiness happens. Whether we like it or agree with it or are confused by it.Click To Tweet

And I thought I’d want to write something about how much we’ve confused theology and gynecology in terms of limiting women, silencing women, oppressing women throughout the ages, and how this meant the emphasis on the virginity of Mary was more important than her courage or obedience, and how if we really think about it and parse it out it would mean the Holy Spirit – who is God – had sex with Mary – and she somehow gave birth to Jesus, who is also God and one with the Holy Spirit, so God gave birth to God…? It doesn’t make much sense to go there, and it really doesn’t help either way. Whatever.  The emphasis on something that is pretty moot in my book takes away from the point of it all – that God came into this world and joined us. And for what reason…? It blows my mind. Because seriously, the human race pretty much sucks, and documentaries like Blackfish remind me just how much.


And then, my son, Desmond. He strikes again! is what I’m thinking as I watch him trip slow motion backwards into the stand holding the blue pitcher of water for the baptismal font. I gasp and mouth the word Nooooooooooooooooo dramatically as it topples off into the lap of an unsuspecting girl. I flinch like I got hit with a water balloon even though it doesn’t come near me. Somehow this girl manages to keep it from hitting the chancel stairs too hard, so it doesn’t break – Thank. God. – but the water spills everywhere.

Lord Jesus, why??? Pastor Rachel says something to lighten the tension but I just want to crawl under the pews until the service is over and everyone has gone home. What am I doing wrong??? As I hold him squirming in my lap and then pass him off to his dad so that I can grab Ozzie who is power crawling towards that same font I watch Maddie, another little girl older than the twins but whose mother and I share knowing glances all throughout the service. We often commiserate after service about whose children were worse. Maddie goes up to the baptismal font and…sticks her whole hand in there. And drinks the water in her hand. While Pastor Rachel is still doing her children’s sermon. She’s unfazed by it. Maddie even licks her fingers. I’m thinking, “Oh God!” kind of gross – surely that ain’t no holy water – but kind of wondrous and I’m laughing to myself.

I forget sometimes that the baptismal font is not just symbolic of cleansing but also for quenching that eternal thirst. I loved seeing Maddie do it so blatantly and … joyously. 

Right on, Maddie! You drink from the font, girl. Drink it to the dregs. Drink it up, drink up the love of God, the promise of God’s seal upon our lives, the water that never ceases to flow, drink it all up. 

It all seems so bleak and futile – our small lives – and all the destruction and ugliness feels like it is constantly winning. But it’s not.

People gather to protest and resist the darkness and to call for freedom, and huddle together around the small spring of water that gives life to the multitudes,Click To Tweet

It is a baby once again that reminds me of God, baby Eli being baptized today, reminded me of God on high drawing near to us, and always in the most unexpected places, holiness happens.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!