Cyclic

It’s happening again.
A time ends, and a new time begins.
I graduated again. Just like back then.
Back when I was searching and drained.
Had it all but not entertained.
Just afraid.
I was at the top. Nothing to stop me.
Not grades or smarts.
Not girls or money or any other part.
I had it all, but what was it?

(I was coming out of high school on pretty much a full ride and plenty of credits to a top of the line engineering college after winning a national tournament and taking college classes and acing several AP’s with all the right technology and stuff and friends and girlfriend [well not this one this time], not to brag, but just the jumble of facts.)

But I missed the point, and I was seeking the wrong things.
Until I got a splash in the face and saw that it was about Him the whole time.

And it’s happening again.
Funds – check.
Fancy degrees and cred – check.
Wanted and encouraged and praised – check.
Right technology and stuff and friends – check.
(Single – check.)
But once again I’m afraid.
Afraid that I’ll miss the point again.
That I’ll seek the wrong things again.
But maybe it’s a cycle so that I can remember.
Memory is the key – (I think that’s from a show)
And this time I’ll follow Him with a little more faith.
I’ll see Him sooner.
I won’t be as afraid.

(But maybe still a little, I’m still learning for the next cycle)

Aside

Easter Sunday 2015

I am weary
scared of what is to come and fearful of right now
sick and bruised
wrapped in sin
dragging myself forward
quick frustration and easy sadness
weekend light soon becomes a faded glow
darkness surrounds me.

But He is risen.

Darkness could not defeat Him.
Light is His reign forever and ever.
Quick to show His love and tender mercies.
He was dragged to the cross.
The weight of sin on Him.
Bruised and beaten He hung for me.
He stands in my midst and proclaims “peace be with you”.
He is life to the full.
He is risen indeed!

Late Night Heart Music – “You Know Me”

“You are God and You don’t miss a thing”

You know my heart, You know my soul
You know me from head to toe
Not an inch You don’t know
From standing on tiptoes reaching for Your presence in the stars
To stretching out to the farthest far
Every bar, every beat that goes towards You or afar
From walking water to running farther
From solid rock to sinking harder
From rock song, love song to Love song
Song of Songs, Psalms
David’s Psalm, a song of being known
Known in the deeps, deeply known
In deep sleep and sleepy groans
Groans for more
More of me
And still You see
And still You know me
More than simple feats
Or simple beats
From my still beating for You
To chasing beats of my own
I am known
From tones of joy
To notes of sorrow
From today until tomorrow
In chords played minor
All my desires
When my soul is set afire
Or I’m just tired
In sinking mires
And being retired
From risks to comfort
In pain and hurt
In pride beyond worth
From worship to sealed lips
Valley, peak, high, low, every dip
When all my emotions are high
Or all I can do is sigh
You know me from start to finish, beginning to end, first to last, best to worst, new to old, hot to cold, A to Z
You know me

Making Dumplings – 包餃子

My mother makes the best 餃子

They’re delicious

Like precious jewels wrapped in a gold lining

Like warmth wrapped in golden rays of sun

Like a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth

Okay maybe not as good as Jesus for my family

But definitely as heavenly

I used to hate eating dumplings at home

I wanted to eat McDonalds or Pizza Hut

Stories of golden crisp (and perfectly salted) fries

And the toys that comes as a surprise

That would be the life

I wanted to bring “normal” food to school

To end comments of “ew it looks slimy” or “what is that”

To be able to buy the greasy collections of the cafeteria line

Or at least a lunch without everyone staring at mine
And the worst was the smell

Every time I left my home my friends would cringe back a little

Like their noses were picking up the scent of wrong

I don’t belong

My mother makes the best 餃子

Every time I come home from college

Without a doubt, I’ll eat 餃子

Sometimes I’ll even bring a few back

Most times, I get them right when I return

My mom has waited all night for me to get back at 1 AM

And as soon as I walk in the door, my nose picks up the scent

It wafts past me, the smell of home

Stomach growling, I dive into a plate filled full

Soy sauce and 老干妈 in a bowl

Warmth and rest from a long nights drive fill my soul

We used to have dumpling making parties at church

The kids would be there for food, but more importantly to play

Our moms would call us over, “come learn to 包餃子, wrap dumplings”

“Come learn to make them beautiful and functional”

(They wrapped them in this gently folded pattern that also helped them stand up)

“Come learn to sit and wrap and rejoice as family”

Annoyingly, we would comply

Folding a few dumplings that would simply fall over

You could tell the plate of dumplings we made

We would say “look how bad ours look, let us go play”

And leave, not willing to stay

And learn

My mother makes the best 餃子

I recently have been learning how to 包餃子

We start from scratch

My mom knows exactly how much flour to throw

She gently and smoothly kneads the dough

Knowing to add a little more water based on humidity

I on the other hand have to follow the recipe

“Was that 1 cup of water or half?”

We roll the wrappers

My mother takes the roller and rocks it gently back and forth

Turning the piece of dough into a perfect circle in seconds

I think

Rock it forward

Turn

Rock it backward

Turn

Wait what was next?

Uh how do I fix this into a circle…

We wrap the dumplings

My mother wraps them into pieces of arts in seconds

My dumplings look

Like a hastily made gift wrapped in fake gold

Like a bundle of blankets falling over

My dumplings are Chinese American

They are part of me

But they are delicious

To Die In

I took part in the uiuc die in today (a nonviolent protest to proclaim that black lives matter). A year ago, I would never consider taking part in a protest. In fact, I probably would look questioningly on or speak down towards it just like many of the onlookers today. Even leading up to today, I was hesitant to go. Even in the midst of the protestors, I questioned myself. Was I doing something right, good, acceptable, questionable?

I heard something incredibly wise from one of the protestors. She gave words to the uncomfortable and asked us to sit, lie down, walk in it.

This summer I learned an analogy for justice/racism, one I need to be constantly reminded of – a simple image – a moving walkway. To walk in the same direction is to actively take part in injustice and racism, but still to stay still is to be pushed in the same direction as those walking. And to pursue justice is to walk, to run as fast as we can in the other direction. And I think there is another part to the analogy. Walking in the same and even staying still are comfortable. People easily move with or pass you. But when you turn around and start going in the other direction, even running, discomfort comes. Passing eyes, looking directly in them you must walk against them. I remember times playing around and running the other direction on a walkway as a child. Even then most people find it at best a silly childish fun, at worst a rude undisciplined act. I imagine myself running the other direction as a 21 year old and being thought of even worse.

And yet I’ve been learning so much about walking the other direction, living counter culturally, in more than just justice or racism but everything. I’ve learned from Jesus to set aside comfort and seek Him, to take up my cross, deny myself, and follow Him. In all the things I’ve learned to have for myself: My worth – seeking a high paying job, using my intelligence to prove more about myself or earn money or fame, blaming failures (for myself and others) on competence. My relationships – seeking people like me, using flirting or affirmation or others to make myself feel better, blaming others for things that go wrong. My time – seeking fun and entertainment, using my time for the things I want, blaming anger on others when I don’t get my use of time. And many more. But denying them. Giving up a successful and high paying job as an engineer or academic smarts in grad school or even a funded job as a teacher to follow Jesus as a IV campus staff worker. Or giving up important and loved relationships to follow Jesus to the uncomfortable. Or even giving up the small things – that one grade or time for video games or snacks or a few hours of sleep.

If Jesus has already denied it all, sat in the biggest discomfort of a torturous death, if He has already shown me the pleasure and joy and eternal and present reward of knowing Him more through the things I have already denied, how can I not deny more. Why do I fear and hold back the discomfort, the next denial?

What do I have to fear?

If Jesus calls me to deny the comforts embedded in me of silence, distance, judgment, apathy, privilege, how can I say no?

Jesus give me strength and courage and love to follow you fully. Let your Spirit guide me and fill me.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

 

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Luke 9:23

 

Resisting Silence – Finding My Voice Against Racial Injustice

I wanted/have been trying to write this response for a while so it comes perhaps at a late and strange time, but in light of silence and decisions, I write at a time sooner than never. In recent and ongoing discussions of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and racial injustice in America, an issue several have written about is silence – specifically of the Asian American Christian community. Read a few posts of such below.

http://feistythoughts.com/2014/08/16/the-unacceptable-silence-of-asian-american-christians-in-response-to-ferguson/

http://smwatkins.com/2014/08/21/how-silence-destroys-cross-cultural-trust/

http://natejlee.com/ferguson-to-asian-americans-deconstructing-silence/

Many of the posts focus on the hurtful impact of our silence and the distance from justice. Our silence, although hidden and quiet, says quite openly that we don’t know, that we don’t care, that we are okay with injustice towards our brothers and sisters. Along the same desire for justice, some focus on how the Asian American community has gotten here – how we have become so silent – our identity. Our silence is only natural until we begin to understand ourselves and how we are included – how our voice matters. The issue then is how we respond – when do we speak up – do we simply say something for the sake of saying or do we first need to understand perhaps who we are.

Of course I would say there is a middle ground – perhaps that is also part of my tendency to seek the middle – that maybe sometimes I just need to speak up first and be present and set the self focus that my Asian American church background is so about aside. Because yes – justice is important. And silence is a ride backward on that moving walkway towards injustice. But for me and my journey in finding my voice, I couldn’t speak up – I didn’t speak up – I wouldn’t speak up. Not until I began to understand myself. Not until I found myself stuck in an uncomfortable position in the middle and wondered why. Really not until I broke down in tears in front of my dear staff worker and friend in realization that I didn’t feel like I had a voice – and then went forward with the realization that I do have a voice. And it was only then that I begin to resist silence, to fight against years of established tendencies and assumptions, to say something.

And I have many words now to say (and many that I still fail to say). That I lament alongside Michael Brown’s family and community. That racial injustice is not okay. That racism and the notion that White culture is superior is not okay. Not in the tension between Black and White and especially not in my own life – in the ways that I let it define my role and voice and place as an Asian American, as a minority. But also that I believe in a God that is much bigger than systemic injustice. In a God that is all about justice and reconciliation and restoring us and the world to what it was meant to be. In a God that is already at work through Jesus, through us, through brothers and sisters of all backgrounds and nationalities – on my campus, in the city, around the world – in bringing His Kingdom here.

And there are many more words to say, but right now, the words I want to write are of God at work in finding my voice and the importance of finding who I was created to be.

To start, I had to see where I and those tendencies came from. I grew up in a Chinese American Christian suburban home. That includes the typical push to look well off financially, academically, emotionally, physically, musically (to name a few) and spiritually too. It meant hiding bad grades/failures and subtly boasting talents/successes. It meant parents boasting about their children’s accomplishments and not mentioning the troubles. It meant learning to suppress anger and force a smile. It meant saying the right things. It meant never sharing with my parents or friends about struggles and pains and stress. It meant avoiding conflict until it burst and hurt the church.

And my family was one of the best. Our quiet, shy personalities mixed with precision and surrounding families to make a cocktail of adaptation and fitting in. I learned to stay silent, or never have the thoughts in the first place. I never brought up conflict or discomfort, especially regarding pre-established conditions or other people. My role was to follow and listen, whether it was the American dream or the white team. And I learned from my family, my community, my church to devalue Black lives. And something else came out of all this. I became the middle ground, the poser, the listener. I learned how to echo and reverberate the voices of the unheard. I learned how to shut down my own and take on all the burdens. I learned how to appear put together.

Even when I discovered justice, I thought I had a perfect match. My listening, adapting, voicing for others were just the right gifts. And my figured out life could be used to help those in need. So I went into things like CUP excited to learn and to help others through the process. I wanted to become an expert and an advocate for justice. But somewhere in the midst of it, I felt disconnected, frustrated, and alone. I was running a race in the middle. Trying/thinking I could catch up to the white group, without a glance back or understanding of the black and latino group behind me. I broke down in tears in front of my dear staff worker. I had spent so long grasping after the goal in front of me that I lost my own voice, and didn’t even know the voices behind me. And she told me I have a voice – God gave me a voice – one essential to be heard, not silenced. I found my voice in the cracks in my soul, in the brokenness and suffering of who I am, in who God created me to be. I discovered real pain and suffering and injustice by walking beside, sharing with, hurting alongside my brothers and sisters.

And so even when it is so easy for me to disengage from emotions and pain and suffering and people. Or even in the moments where I do exactly that. Even when I get distracted by all the other “good” things I am doing. I choose to resist silence. Because our Black brothers and sisters don’t have that choice.

And I urge you, my Asian American brothers and sisters, to resist silence. Because I have seen and experienced how our silent churches and families hurt ourselves and hurt our brothers and sisters. Whether you need to be told that you do have a voice or that you’ve learned to hide it.

Because you have a voice.

And it is necessary.

And it is beautiful.

And it is real.

Aside

Prayer for Ferguson

prayer – spiritual defiance of what is in the name of what God has promised

I pray against the injustice, violence, and powers that bind and hurt and oppress – I pray hoping, trusting, and expectant that God has promised and will bring peace, healing, release, and reconciliation. … that I believe in a God that is much bigger than systemic injustice. In a God that is all about justice and reconciliation and restoring us and the world to what it was meant to be. In a God that is already at work through Jesus, through us, through brothers and sisters of all backgrounds and nationalities – on my campus, in the city, in Ferguson, around the world – in bringing His Kingdom here. And I stand there with my brothers and sisters – my voice among them – to love, to lament, to listen.

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,
    and executes justice for the poor.

Psalm 140:12

justice ain’t a principal, justice is a prince
and His name is King Jesus, the redeemer of our sins
justice ain’t a concept, justice is a man
and His name is Christ Jesus, who’s the Lion and Lamb

Mickey Cho | Justice Has A Name