Dreaming Dreams and Performing Hope

Dreaming Dreams and Performing Hope

They come running at us clapping and shout-singing like my 4 year olds but enunciating a lot more clearly: G-O-O-D M-O-R-N-I-N-G GOOD MORNING (WOOT WOOT) GOOD MORNING (WOOT WOOT) and lead us into a bright space with flying leaps and cartwheels. Stained glass windows line one side of the wall near the ceiling and there are the dark wood beams of early 18th century churches overhead. We walk in and like good Presbyterians sit in the back row but immediately get reprimanded for that by a lovely woman named Eileen. But, she lets us stay there as we watch sixty children stomp the floor not only with their feet but their bodies and voices and we can feel it in our feet.

And then they sing a song about “being strong and finding that what’s inside helps them to resist the wrong” and I just weep quietly. I cry any time kids are playing and singing hard – sometimes out of weariness and sometimes from being filled up.

***

Savannah is a rail in pink and short and bright kicks. Short hair that falls to her shoulders making her look a little older than her 9 years. I am taken with her green eyes and freckles. She is quiet and shy but smiles so huge as she explains the art on the wall that is hers. I wonder if she is someone that normally needs to be coaxed to talk aloud. I can almost see her buzzing with pride and excitement. I look behind her to see the influence of Matisse and Monet in these tissue-paper and crayon pieces.

Above us there are light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling like huge raindrops suspended in time. It’s a lovely effect these tiny angels that stay a little above our heads, and remind me that even when the sun is bright in the room the light from within is just as necessary.

***

I keep thinking about all these ways to perform hope. We embody it in our flesh and blood as we chant and step across the room. We express it in our art as we play with colors and mediums. We share stories, we explore with our songs – ones that we know and ones that we make up, we trample the darkness beneath our feet clutching each others’ hands with shouts of WOOTWOOT.

In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.

Watching and listening I feel like I’m entering into their dreams a little but they’re dreams that feel so real and alive. And this is church – walking, singing these dreams.

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The Salt Collective: Embracing Being the Token

The Salt Collective: Embracing Being the Token

Today I’m over at the SALT Collective!


“I am the only one. On most committees or organizations, I am usually the only one. The only woman. The only young person. The only racial “minority.” The only liberal. And most recently, the only mother with young children. It was something I grew accustomed to rather quickly, this being the token fill-in-the-blank.”

This was the opening to the chapter I wrote in Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Clergywomen of Color. A book full of theological, sociological, cultural reflections on the experience of clergywomen of color I had the privilege of editing turned into continuous fodder for my own reflection on the complicated intersections of race, gender, economics, and more.

Being a Presbyterian minister now for over ten years I’ve spent much time struggling to articulate what it means to be the token, a standout and a novelty – a Korean American clergywoman. Though I’ve come to feel comfortable in my clergy-skin teaching, leading worship, administering sacraments, and preaching from the pulpit, I still wrestle with the gaze of the wider public when I am out and about with my collar on. The white tab in the center of my neck surrounded by the somber black seems to cause a double-take by those who walk by me. It’s the clash of the traditional images of the office with the (relative) youthfulness of my face, my being a woman, and my East Asian heritage that perhaps elicits this response.

But, I haven’t always worn a collar – it’s not terribly common attire for Presbyterian clergy. Generally, Presbyterians like to blend in a little more.

I chose to wear one because I wanted to stand out.

Read the rest at the SALT Collective.

Deeper Story: Texas (Or Why I’m Thinking about Abortion these Days)

Deeper Story: Texas (Or Why I’m Thinking about Abortion these Days)

This is an old post from Deeper Story, and felt pertinent again as we face state-mandated legislation that continues to impose on the rights of women like Purvi Patel who was recently convicted of feticide because of a miscarriage while killers like George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, and the police offers who shot Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and strangled Eric Gurley walk free. We’ve seen much miscarriages of justice this last year. #repealrfra #fixfeticidelaw 

Wendy Davis.

Abortion.

Human rights.

The drama in Texas as of late has been time-consuming. During the summer when all my shows are absent and I’m tired of reruns on Netflix or Hulu it is easy to get swept up in it. Late at night I squint at my Iphone following various conversations on Twitter and then catch up on summaries and opinions about it the next morning. I find myself reacting to photographs…cringing and angry at people posting pictures of aborted fetuses in the palm of someone’s hand. Angry at the loss of life. Angry at feeling manipulated by these pictures. But, also heartened, and bolstered by images of Wendy Davis standing, but also sitting in a gallery, a sea of men, and the women sitting in the gallery in solidarity, resisting, and speaking, embodying the voiceless.

Something huge is stirring there. And, it feels like a microcosm of the general unrest all across the country. Trayvon Martin. Death Row. The Asiana debacle. Gay marriage. It’s all a bit staggering trying to keep up with voices clamoring for attention. Is there a majority voice? A minority voice? Does that even matter?

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I’m taking Monday mornings “off” now (quotes because are we really ever off, especially with a cute almost-5 month old sleeping near me that will awake at any moment) and trying to get out somewhere – anywhere – to feel normal. I’m sitting in the Bakehouse, which is the local version of Panera-Cosi surrounded by students and retirees with big screen TVs showing some road race. The town is big into cycling with the Little Indy and well, just watch the movie, Breakaway.

I’m drinking a leisurely cup of coffee. This is an insanely huge treat to not have to toss into the back of my throat so I don’t lose my chance at caffeine. And baby#3 has fallen into what looks possible like a deep sleep. And…there’s a family behind me with a screaming toddler. I think it’s a toddler. I don’t turn around because I know how it feels to be looked at when in public with a very unhappy and vocal child. My shoulders are tightening up. It’s not so relaxing anymore. I’m starting to gulp the coffee as if it will disappear like a use-it-or-lose-it arrangement. The little voice sounds so similar to the twins it feels like I’m at home with them trying to ignore the latest scream-debate over the broom or my flip-flops.

How can something so small be so loud?

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When I was lying on the table as they reached in and plucked the twins out of the place that was their home for almost 9 months – my impossibly huge belly – I tried to imagine the sound they would make with their first breath. D had a low, wide cry that would remain the same even until this day, and Angelpie screeched as they lifted her up. I laughed. My first words – I was drugged up, mind you – was, “She sounds like a cat!” If I could go back I maybe would have tried to muster up something more meaningful.

But I cried, too. Their cries were God. Something divine and eternal happened in that moment, a thin place, a place where heaven and earth touched briefly. Likewise, when Oz was born and we had no idea whether boy or girl when I heard his wail, it immediately brought tears to my eyes. Hearing his voice meant he was real. Because even up to that point – what with infertility issues and a surprise pregnancy – I still didn’t believe he was real. His voice cut through all those doubts, and I was thinking, rather cheerily, the words to that Beatles song, I’m a believer…

I get it now.

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The sight of the two embryos getting sucked up by a microscopic needle in preparation for the embryo transfer – on a huge flat screen TV – while I lay on the table is forever burned in my mind. There goes Anna. (Swoooooop)There goes Desmond. (Swooooooooop) They were little dots in a petri dish. Now they are flailing limbs, teeth, wrinkled noses, and sweet hands. I can’t help but think what would we have done if later in the pregnancy something happened where it wouldn’t be a viable option to continue to sustain them? Some kind of genetic disability? Or what if one was somehow viable, and the other not, and one needed to come out early, otherwise we would lose both? These are horrible scenarios, I know, but I have heard they are real. I don’t know what I would have chosen to do if that happened to us. There’s far worse that could have happened to me, too, and that happen to women on a daily basis, their bodies.

All that drama. To try to decide who has rights, who has nerve endings and feels pain, who has a soul. To try to decide who gets to choose what happens to the little blip on the screen until the first breath, the first cry.

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There’s no answer. No one answer. But what this has to do with me right now is the conviction that the struggle for life – whether at the embryonic or community levels – is one that must be engaged by all. It might have to do with race, or with gender, or with economics, but it impacts all. I’m sounding preachy. I’m not meaning to lecture because this is pretty obvious. I think I’m writing it out to remind myself that like a friend posted on Facebook this morning I can’t just post a couple of links or say a few words here and there because a revolution needs to happen that is real and changes people and institutions. For now, that resistance happens at home and in coffee shops…I pray God to give me courage to carry that resistance into other places, too, at the courthouse, at church, and the streets.

“A social movement that moves only people is a revolt. A movement that changes people and institutions is a revolution.” – MLK Jr.

#BlackLivesMatter and Vigilance

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“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition.
But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”

― Malcolm X

Trayvon Martin.

Photos of his face covered my Facebook and Twitter. Hoodie and all brown eyes. A red tshirt over the slim body of a smiling, carefree young boy. Dark hat slung low over his eyes and a hardness in his face.

When George Zimmerman was declared innocent in the murder of this innocent child I was in the throes of postpartum depression from the birth of the twins. They were about five months old, and I was still in denial that I had any problems. I chalked it up to hormones and sleeplessness. But, I was so angry. Always so angry. And with Trayvon’s death and his killer’s acquittal, I became even more agitated vacillating between an exhaustion rooted in the heavy physicality of raising babies and a growing discomfort at the reality that the world these babies were growing up in was ugly and violent.

I was angry and didn’t know that it was actually okay to be angry. I started taking medication and though it dulled the anger it didn’t take away those deeper seeds of discontent at a deeper reality. That it wasn’t the fact that he was dressed “suspiciously,” or “running away,” or “out late at night.” That he was killed because he was black.

At the time I didn’t know what else to do but take the obligatory selfie – all of us in hoodies, and then later again, with Ozzie almost a year later, we all wore hoodies to church one hot summer Sunday morning. I’m painfully aware of the ways we dilute anti-blackness even when we’re trying to show solidarity.

My hands were subconsciously tucked into my sleeves.

We received some strange looks. I didn’t say a word.

***

Mike Brown.

His body face down on the street. Alone. A pool of blood streaming from his body. Police and tape making a wide berth around him as neighbors begin to gather in the area to protest the death of this child.

I keep thinking about his hands in the air. Hands to show that they were empty. Hands to show that he was unarmed. Hands to show he was terrified and asked for help.

Hands that held a cap and gown. Hands that held a diploma. Hands that once held his mother’s hands.

***

Eric Garner. Renisha McBride. Jordan Davis.

I’m not just thinking in terms of these children being someone’s children. Or brother. Or sister. Or friend. Or loved one. Whether they were going to start college. Whether they were drunk driving and wrecked a car. Whether they were holding stolen goods. Whether they were wearing a hoodie.

They are children of God and no one deserves to ever be gunned down and slaughtered in this way.

We’ve not done enough. Enough. Enough in the history of this world to express that #blacklivesmatter.

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

―Malcolm X

Enough is enough.

Because “faith without works of love and justice is dead,” (@andykort). I’ll speak out. I’ll stand. I’ll pray. I’ll point fingers. I’ll work. I’ll be a killjoy. I’ll support and boost. I’ll listen to the voices that matter this time and all the time. I’ll speak of anti-blackness, white supremacy, state-sanctioned police brutality and violence because the white narrative is enough.

People are talking about it. #christiantwitter didn’t think anyone was talking about it. Is it because you’re not following the voices that matter? Will you listen to the voices that you’ve silenced and marginalized? Will you listen to the voices that have been crying out and the ones you’ve ignored and erased and deemed illegitimate? Will you listen to the voices that you extinguish on a daily basis?

Enough is enough. For God’s sake, enough is enough.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

―Malcolm X