Gun Shy

I am really gun shy or almost afraid of anything that minimizes power displays and realities.
Having lived most of my life surviving so well as a minority, it is now my turn to truly live and not survive. No longer do I want to minimize my feelings, hurts, dreams and fears away. But instead, I want to feel it all without making excuses for those who may not understand or worse yet, for those who must truncate my emotions in order to avoid what my feelings may infer about them.

In these last few months, I am so aware of the degrees of pain that I have had shuffled under the table for the sake of harmony , and some times for the sake of spirituality. As I continue to listen to other minorities’ stories, I also get absorbed into their dismays which causes me to relive mine. It has been an emotional journey that has caught me by surprise. It is at times so frightening or so charged that I wonder about the power that it has over me.

Is this power good? Is it for revenge? Is it cynism that comes from betrayal? Is it basic distrust? It has made me wonder if I need to relive the various horrors and have Jesus reassure me of his presence and love. From there, I will find wisdom and truth of how to live. (Psalm 51:6)

For now, I am not comfortable with being myself. I am gun shy! For now, I think I need to live and stay in the pain before I move on too quickly which is my past defense mechanism for survival. What I need is to truly live and feel all of this with God and let him speak to my uneasy self.

My compass….

This summer, I was blown away by 2 compliments that came my way. They both came at me in a nice surprising way. And I was very much taken aback by both of them.

As you can surmise, this summer was exciting yet humbling for me. It was a summer in which I felt I had to desperately seek others to help me sort through some deep emotional turmoil. (Read my previous blog about my humbling summer.) So, when one of our students wrote a thank you card to me…I was a bit insulted at first by her remarks. She mentioned the usual things that one says to enccourage a mentor : God used you to help her grow; You were an example of faith, etc. But then, she made this comment: ” I learned grace from you and you modeled this for me and us. You are one of the best at failing well.” At first, I was a bit shocked or disturbed by that comment; it is not something that anyone has ever said to me. Then, it hit me that this was what I wanted and prayed for esp. in light of ministering to Asian Americans who often times do not ever fail or fail well. It dawned on me that she had given me a compliment or encouragement that was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me especially in this context. To me, it should be one of our goals as ministers for the AA community: That our lives would be examples of those who live out grace, and those who can fail well and teach others to do the same.

The second compliment came while I was having breakfast with a staff and her husband who is not in our circle of service but is very supportive of his wife. We had a great time fellowshipping over good food. As he shared his experiences in ministry, he also went on to share with me his outside perspective on our Epic National Staff Conf that took place a few days prior to our breakfast. He described similar things that I would expect from others: our conf. was modelled by vulnerabilty and honesty which he loved; engaging content that was visionary. It was rather encouraging and the usual suspect. However, I dropped my jaw when he said his final statement: Well, the most important thing that I felt from your national leadership in general that was different than other Christian leadership context was this: You all live out and showcased Servant Leadership. When he said this, I was speechless. I felt like he read a page out of our Epic National LD team’s notes and values and just recited back verbatim. It was indeed the kindest compliment that I think that one can ever receive in ministry: to live out servant leadership. For indeed, it is one thing to lead and yet another to be known for servant leadership like Jesus live out. I pondered on his statement for days.

These 2 compliments certainly put things into perspective for me. They blew me away and emphatically guided me back to some of the truest values that I want to live out as a minister in the AA community. I feel that these compliments have given me my compass for ministry with AA’s.

My Tribute to the Kennedys.

Standing on the steps of the Michigan Student Union, my life was first changed. It was there that I first fell in love with the idea of serving community, others and even for our country. That was the year where I began to learn about my own Asian American journey and our AA community. It was there that I became angry at the injustices done to ethnic Americans in these United States of America. The next year as a Sophomore, I founded the Asian American Association and began encouraging our members in self expression and to participate in community service and politics on campus and beyond. It was an exciting time to see how my one little life could effect change for our community. I fell in love with service hook line and sinker! Two years later when I began to grow spiritually, I also got involved in making a difference for God and our Asian American student community. It was phenomenal to see how little seeds of service can grow to touch so many’s lives, including my own. God was at work in our community!

As I have recently reflected over my college career, I truly see how God used men like the Kennedys to change my destiny. As the country and the world mourn for the death of the last of the Kennedy brothers, I too have been very affected by this loss. Though I have never met these Kennedys and I have not always agreed with their rhetoric or politics, I have been greatly influenced by them. I indeed have been shaped by their way of life of public service. And for that, I am very grateful! I feel that they were the ones that tilled the soil of my heart and soul for a life of service for God. So, their legacy will continue in my life every time I choose to serve others, serve our community or God’s community. Today, I weep for the joy of a life well lived and for the hope to do the same in my life according to God’s will.

Here is how I hear the Kennedy’s way of thinking in my heart both now and in college:
” Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” President John F. Kennedy said on the steps of the Univ. of Michigan student union.
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Robert Kennedy
“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that “all men are created equal.”Ted Kennedy’s eulogy at Robert Kennedy’s funeral.
” To whom much is given, much is required” From the Gospel of Luke.

As a Sophomore, I heard the cry to make a difference and that my small life can make a difference for the community. I saw the lack of something and I wanted to alter that sad reality even if no one would join me. As a senior in college, being active in a conservative Christian club was good for my spirituality; but at times offensive for my cultural awareness as an AA. There were times when I would sit at these meetings and wonder if I fit or if I could stand the prejudices of these well meaning Christians. There were times that I wanted to quit. But I think the call of God and the sentiments of these men and others reverberated in my soul to stay. To stay only as a means of changing things for the better for others and for the future. So stay I did. And I am glad for after 26 years I am still serving with that same organization seeking change for the better for God’s community.

I am glad that God made me see that even one life will make a difference and that my life can be a part of changing an organization for good. This is what I carry from these Kennedys that I have never met. It is a sad day in my heart for a piece of my history feels like it is dying. But again I hear these men’s voice booming also in my heart:

“The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.” Ted Kennedy at the DNC 2008. So, I wake up in a new day and I carry the torch to make a difference in this world for God and for the community. I carry on and pass that on as it has been passed on to me by men I have never met.

The Moment of Truth

It was a summer mixed with joys and pains and struggles. We were at the end of it and were playing a game to recollect and celebrate our summer together as a missional team in San Fran. One of our female students and female staff had designed a fun game using trivia about our project. It ranged from things like: How many birthdays did we celebrate this summer? Into more serious questions about who is who on our project. It was definitely an insider’s game of trivia. Very clever game indeed to celebrate with. They did a great job with it.

So, the question came up: “Who was the Assistant Project Director?”

At first, the students were contemplating…and were not sure and discussing this briefly for a short minute or so. I sat there almost sweating. I was telling myself: “THIS IS IT”. What will these students say? or even staff? Will they say: It was Margaret. She is the woman and she was the Assistant Project Director or Associate Proj. Dir. I was squirming in my seat and praying for the best and even bracing myself for fear of disappointment.

You see, in some Christian and/or Asian American settings, women can only be associates or assistants, and not leaders in their own rights. We in Epic have made it clear that our Proj Directors were both co leaders together and not fixed by gender. That is our value. However, values are only as good as how people really perceive it to be. In that moment, I remember saying to God: “Well, this is the moment of truth. Did we or did we not really teach them and showcase to them that men and women both lead out of their own strengths and that one is not lesser than the other.” I was praying and hoping that they would get the correct answer.

This was also very impactful for me as I knew of our women’s stories of past pains in sometimes being a woman and/or woman leader. So, if these women who designed the game said the wrong answer, it would have been very sad for me to realize that we had failed in living out our values in front of them or that they did not catch these.

So, the contestants and the 2 teams were baffled and they even suggested some funny names like one of the staff guys. But in the end, the students said:” No one was the assistant project director.” And the answer was: “No one!”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. And it was only after a day or so that I realised that this moment of truth helped me see that God had indeed worked on our project. The men and women there were living out our values of empowering men and women to lead. I was so grateful for that. It could have looked very different! But God really allowed us to live that out the blessed alliance of men and women leading together for God’s glory.

I was so blessed to be a part of that.

leadership development for asian americans

This summer afforded me a great privilege of living with AA students and staff. I was so grateful for that. It brought to mind for me how challenging spiritual transformation is within our AA community. I was very aware of how difficult it really is to assist others in their spiritual growth esp. in light of our AA realities. Given all of our AA cultural challenges, growing in Christ really looks so different than other settings. As a result of my summer with our staff and students, I became even more grateful for our staff on the field on campuses who labor day in and day out for God to use them to influence young men and women for Christ. I was very humble in this process.

One of the things that I became convinced of was that we in Christian service must figure out how we can make plain and simple the reality of living in a community of grace. I saw the power of a graceful community and its power to change us. But I also saw how this kind of environment does not come easily and must be a product of much prayer and intentionality.

I was blessed to see this kind of power and community. In light of our AA communities penchant to stay in darkness or shame, it was such a healing balm for us to experience sharing about the hidden pains and hurts and sins of our past. It was powerful to see the healing power of confession, forgiveness and grace given to each other in community.

However, I also saw that there are so many distractions and temptations that keep us pursuing true biblical transformational community……

Staycation

I love staycations. It is great that I did not have to travel to relax and vacation.
I literally did not do much but eat, read, slept, and shop a bit.
I loved it and I felt free to do this as I realised that it was a great picture of how
the world does not revolve around me. That indeed God is still reigning supreme for all of his people while I rest. It is very humbling and very reassuring for my soul to know that God is still at work while I rest.

I am so grateful to the fact that God rested on the seventh day. And that he desired all of us to rest from some of our labor every 7 years. (I must have a sabbatical for one year somehow!)

I have lots to do after my staycation. But God is in control…..
I must rest and trust in Him.

Grateful for such a loving God…

Humbling summer….

My summer was a great summer. The words that I would use to describe it would be humbling.
I entered the summer really tired and a bit discouraged with all the circumstances in my life.
I had begun my summer project hitting rock bottom as I experienced in a real way the effects of 3 months or so of just struggling and surviving. Since March of this year, lots had transpired. My mom was sick and was hospitalized; she was there for a week and I had to take care of her since she spoke no English. All of that happened while still dealing with our ministry crises that our HR team needed to deal with. I went to Texas to help the staff there while taking a short breather from Mom stuff. It was also a time to deal with Kevin, my nephew’s services being discontinued. During that time I had to do lots of work to appeal this decision. Then, my own financial situation became gloomier and gloomier while my brother, my biggest supporter and the co-owner of my home lost his job. (He is still looking for job.) The fun and hard working event of the spring was also our HR team hiring 14 new people to join us. (We called this spring: Turbo Epic as we worked like turbo charged.)

All that to say, this was the condition of my heart as I met to create our missional team for the summer. Unfortunately or fortunately, I hit rock bottom that day. And as I described in the last blog post, my past hurt also stirred in me as I sat there dealing with the reality of being an Asian American women in our AA community. This past hurt conjured up in my heart the aloneness of my past hurt. But as I deal with that hurt more and more, I realised that I was actually also hurt from having had to deal with so much drama this past spring. It was as if my aloneness was really more from my feeling kind of alone this past spring. In the midst of my many challenging circumstances, I think my heart just gave up and my heart became sad. I think I began to be sad because I felt God was not with me; and I was utterly alone in all of my dealings in my life. I was struggling to feel his presence in my life or was wondering where God was in my life.

What was humbling was that I had to lead a team of students and staff while I was feeling so vulnerable and sad.
God was very gracious to me in that our coaches helped me to sort through my fear of being alone in dealing with the women in leadership question. But they were so apt in saying that there was more to my energy and hurt. They were absolutely correct. My hurt came from my own past few months of my journey with God and my feeling alone with God.
In God’s graciousness, he had allowed my coaches to help me sort through this. And the night right before we were to drive to the Bay Area to truly begin our missional service there, God allowed me to have a great meeting with my friend who prayed and helped sort through my heart with me.

What we discovered that night was that I was finally feeling the last few months with God and I was also feeling alot of past hurts from the women in leadership issue. My friend and I agreed that I needed to let my self feel this and to be humble and make sure i ask for help. We agreed that I needed to let others into my heart that was so sad at that point. Then, we prayed.

I think that meeting changed my whole summer. Because I saw the condition of my heart, I felt a compunction to share with my teammates how fragile I felt. I felt the high need to have them pray for me and for them to help me as I serve. Our team was very gracious and loving in carrying this with me. The picture I have for this summer is of myself being like the widow who could only give Jesus 2 pennies as an offering. But Jesus commends her for giving all that she had. I felt that way about this summer. I did not feel fully myself; I felt weak. But I was fully myself in that I did not put on airs about me. However, I definitely felt like I gave all that I had and my all was like 2 pennies and He somehow blessed the offering.

Humbling…and good.

That moment that transcends into our past…

Recently at a short term missions projects briefing, we held a discussion about leadership. My director asked each group to work on a drawing of a picture of a leader. (Unbeknownst to all, some were asked to draw a picture to depict an Asian American leader; others were asked to do the same but for an American leader.)
Obviously, we realized that the pictures were a bit different from the group that did the AA vs. Western or American leader. Our director gave some great perspectives on how we need to wary of trying to fit one type of leader into a formula…hence, don’t seek to fit a square peg into a round hole.

But the moment that transfixed me into the past of my hurts as a woman leader was right after the 4 groups of us shared these pictures of leaders. Of the 4 groups made up of Asian American men and women, none of the groups showcased a woman leader. All of us somehow subconsciously assumed that leaders be they AA or Americanized were all male. This moment had a very profound and hurtful effect on me. There I sat as we continued to talk about the differences between AA and American or Western leadership while I sank deeper into my seat. Did anyone else noticed this? Any women leader noticed? Or male leaders? (Why didn’t the women speak up? Or the men?)

In that moment, I began to pray that someone else in the audience would notice this gender reality. I felt very alone. In what seemed an eternity, my heart was longing for someone to notice this and declared this a problem in our community…..that women are not thought to be leaders. I waited and waited and no one spoke up. I was in a moral dilemma of some sort. As my director continued with his presentation about leadership, I became more and more ill at ease. That moment transported back to my past of being a woman leader who always had to speak up for other women. I saw in that moment that had I not spoken up that this would be another subtle way of saying that indeed women are not leaders. I could not let this be our statement to so many young women who sat there wanting someone to speak up against this horrific oversight or reality of our community.

So, I raised my hand.

My director was fantastic and agreed that it was a traversity that we all assumed that only men were leaders. He did a great job of affirming that women are leaders by their own rights.
He encouraged all of us to empower women in leadership positions. He did a great job in affirming our women.

My moment of sad aloneness turned into a great moment for our women at the conference.

But it came at a cost to me. It came at the expense of realizing that women are still not naturally lauded as leaders. It came at the cost of me having to once again advocate for women. It took me a while to see that my heart had longed for a man in the audience to remark on the fact that there was a huge miss in our pictures of men leaders and no women leaders. I had to forgo my own desires for others to advocate for me, to realize that I must advocate for our Asian American women. It brought back the past where I would long for others to advocate for me and yet none came to help in those moments. I recalled the total aloneness at those critical times.

What was a moment that transcended me into my past turned into some good for other women.
What was a moment that transported me into my past hurts, became a source of encouragement for others. What could have been a moment of utter despair was transferred into a moment of gratitude as I recalled how there have been great men in my life who totally have advocated for me to lead as a woman leader. What overflowed was a realization that I can advocate because Someone else has advocated for me…not just Jesus Christ himself, but male leaders who have platformed me and empowered me. God always redeems those moments of pain and somehow turns them into a praise to Him.

I am so glad that that moment transcended into my past hurts……because God was there in many ways to handle my hurt and my heart skillfully.

There is still a long journey for women and for me as a woman leader…but it is journey marked with God and other men and women of faith who will advocate for women and men to be all that God desires for them to be.

I am blessed to have worked with men and women who loved and believed in me beyond myself.
God has deeply used them to instill in me a will to lead because of them. I am so grateful to these faithful men and women!

It’s about getting it right….

Since the Detroit Pistons lost recently in the playoffs, I have been following the leadership genius of Detroit’s GM-Joe Dumars’ moves as he navigates through the crisis with his flailing team.
From afar and knowing the little that I know about Dumars, he is a respectful and very well liked individual. And he is lauded as a leader of a diverse group of folks. Joe is also known for making many great moves to get to a championship level of a team. At the same time, many will also remember that he missed the likes of Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony for an unknown Darko Milicic who is still an unknown. He is not perfect but has a great track record.

While observing Dumars’ responses to his floundering team, I thought it was great how he maneuvers through distributing the blame where it maybe due, including on himself. He is one who won’t budge on excellence and hard work. But he is all bent set on his goal…a championship team. He does this by being a calculated risk taker while always treating individuals with class. He is a prototype of HR management/leadership to me.

My latest favorite Dumar’s quote for his team’s creed is this:
‘It’s not about being right, it’s about getting it right.’
I had to rethink this for a few seconds and found it profoundly true in life and leadership.
As a leader, if I were about being right, then, I would do alot to cover up my mistakes. If I were about the first, I would also not admit I was ever wrong thus, at times preventing me from making the right adjustments or corrections. If I were about being right only, then I may also hinder myself from loving people and doing what it takes to confess and repent as needed in relationships.

I love Dumar’s team creed, it reveals so much the heart of an authentic person. That the most important thing in life is not about being right….but about getting it right to do what is best for each situation and for loving relationships in God’s sight. And what is more paramount is not about being right, but about what can happen when one is actually wrong. That indeed, God is a God who sees our sins and short comings and yet, he always redirects us to getting it right with Him via the hope of the Gospel.

I literally have recollections from my leadership experience where I remember being tempted to just appear to be right and just go on as if life is as it should be. And at various times, I’d hear the voice of God nudging me to say: ‘So, Margaret, you would rather be right and look like you did the right thing, then actually obey what I tell you to do NOW! And you would actually let your pride get in the way of what is My will? All so that you can continue to appear to be right? Think about it, my child, what is really in your heart?’

Other temptations happen in leadership decisions where I have made the wrong moves thus impacting those I serve in a negative way. Again, God is very gentle in how he has guided me to apologize to these same people even though in my pride I may not have liked not being right. Had I been about being right, or not being wrong in those scenarios, I would have missed out on repairing relationships and loving others. I would have missed out on the freedom of those moments of being about getting it right with God and not about controlling my image. Had I be about being right, I would have missed those redemptive moments where my image is laid bare and I am without an excuse for being wrong. But the wonder of it all, in these same long moments I usually find the grace of God via the people that knows about my shortcomings. This kind of vulnerability has allowed me to receive love from God in a very tangible intimate way. It also has taught me how to love as God does, with no claims to rights or being right.

So, who said you cannot learn about life via sports? Not I.
Thanks to Dumars, I am reminded about what is essential in life and leadership! Go Pistons!

It is what it is!

“Isn’t it funny that our reputation is like the wind?” This was a question that we discussed as I chatted with a fellow campus minister/friend. He was sharing with me about how a person can build up a life time of faithful service and credibility, but to no avail. What he meant was that sometimes, our reputation or others’ perception of us is what it is, and it does not whatsoever depend on us. The frustrating thing is that others’ perception of us or their opinions of us sometimes is not really about our character or action. Sometimes, their perception is more about their own lens with which they look at us.

Yes, to be a faithful, humble servant of God, we must always examine our own lives and why we maybe perceived negatively. However, there are times when it does not matter what we say or how we live or even about the fruit of our own righteous living. The sad thing is that alot of times, these perceptions are what they are because of the people perceiving us. Thus, their ideas about us are really not something we can truly earn or lose. It is what it is!

I have been thinking about this since Feb. 08. That month, I was not able to attend a conference related to my ministry. But my friends who attended the conference told me what happened there. It was nice that during that time, my name was spoken well of in front of all of the conferees. It was nice! In fact, it was such a nice feeling!

As I was processing that nice feeling, I was reminded by God that it is what it is! Sure felt good to have that feeling of being spoken well of. But it is really not about me. I sense that it is actually ironic that last year , had I attended the same conference, I might have heard some very negative things said about me.
(You see, I was kind of fired from my old position around that time.)

I recalled the feeling that I was so exasperated by my situation because I was not able to represent myself to some of these same people. I was greatly hurt because I was not able to express my view or even defend the false perceptions about me. It was as if it did not matter what I said or what I did, and that these perceptions would persist. I felt very helpless!

The same scenario and yet, this time, it is the opposite. This time, it really was not about me,
it just happened that the perception of me now was a more positive perception of me; but I really didn’t do that much for those kind words. (Sure, I was encouraging and all…but really it was just their perception….) In actuality, I am the same person that was fired.

Like my other friends who have experienced this, after living a while, we get to experience that our reputation is sometimes like the wind. It just come and goes. And really, we cannot base our identity and our worth on the words or opinions of men or women. That really the only thing that is the most important in our lives is what Jesus says about us. That He thinks we are really precious and we are truly his beloved children. What really matters is His opinion about us.

The wind will come and go. And all we can do is to abide in Him as it moves around.
All we can do is to examine our hearts about others perceptions of us and humbly change anything that Our Savior tells us to. We must then leave our reputation at the alter of God.
And to embrace that our reputation is just like the wind.
But God is our security and is our stay.