Thursday, January 07, 2010

So with a new year comes new changes and new blog space... If you have followed my blog and been one of the folks who have encouraged me to upgrade and make some changes to my webblog-- good news-- I listened. You can now find my blog here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Will I own mine?

Will you own yours?

I am mixed. I am bi-racial, hoppa-- half.

My mom is a Filipina from Hawaii. My father, Norwegian and raised in Seattle. Every school I went to-- every church we were a part of-- there were very few, if any, who were like us-- mixed.

Christmas was always the hardest time of the year for me. During this part of the year it was hard for me not to feel just how 'other' I was. Yet, I would somehow, as a child, have a hopeful thrill in my heart at the thought of being with family. This thrill was not something of naivety but of childlike faith which kept something in me able to hope for deep connections.

I grew up in Washington so most of my family ties were of my father's side of the family. Coming together at Christmas with all my blond haired, blue eyed cousins reminded me all too often how different I was. Initially, I wouldn't feel that, (still coming off of an adrenaline high from all the anticipation and excitement) but not too far in would I start to feel loneliness that the difference would bring. I would leave confused, disappointed and disillusioned.

I internalized these messages of difference. Some of these messages were overt like the time my best girlfriend told me that she was better than me because she was white and I was brown or the countless times I was told by friends and family members that potatoes were the staples of choice and nutritionally better for you than rice. While others were covert and intangible like the subtle ways my white family would speak about the differences of my mom perpetuating the reality of 'outsider'.

I spent a great deal of time internalizing every message. I found myself frenetically seeking to find a place that would fully accept me and understand me. I found myself hating who I was and where I came from.

It has taken a great deal of work, introspection, vulnerability and risk to begin to own my story. It has come by way of good friends and husband who have weathered my confused questions and painful stories for me to see something redemptive in all of it. You see, the harder I tried to strip myself of me-- of my story-- the more I became invisible to myself.

And albeit painful, I have come to love who I am. My story is one of hope.

I cannot and will not try to put on another person's story or identity. I will not question my place in time or history. I will not try to make a part of me less visible. I will not speak like you or act like you. I will not hide. I will not like only what you like. I will not always agree with you. I will be tender. I will let my gifts of intuitiveness and sensitivity lead. I will listen. I will allow my story to help me to hear others' stories. I will not be empowered by what you say I can do. I will lean on the God given gifts and insights that have been extended to me. I will speak from conviction. I will speak from my truth, my history, the legacy handed to me-- my story. I will not be ashamed of who I am or the ambiguity of what being mixed brings. I will own my past, carry my present and peer with childlike wonder into my future. I will not wait for your cue to tell me when to speak, act or be. I will have peace. My identity will not be affirmed by how you see me. I will acknowledge that I am created just as God desired me to be. I will speak invitationally. I will move. I will be honest. I will hope.

Monday, November 30, 2009

That's not enough.

The notion that some may not support, believe in or acknowledge women in leadership unless there is a situation where no one else (ahem, ahem-- other guys) steps up to lead seems a little shady. I mean really folks do we want to go down this slippery slope? Now if you're wondering if I conjured this up on my own... I assure you I have not. This is an idea I have heard on countless occasions.

I recognize in large part that this is meant to be a neutral statement. Folks that resonate with the above sentiment usually feel that it is kind and even open. But unfortunately, that message continues to support, maintain and perpetuate the idea that women are not called to be in leadership and that only under the circumstance that there is no other male to fill the need then perhaps an exception can be made. And that, my friends, is completely unacceptable. It is dehumanizing and does not hold to the capability, dignity and integrity of the female identity.

This idea of exception has been perpetuated over history-- remember 'Rosie the Riveter'? A time, in not too distant history, when men were off to war women were called into the work place to create munition and machinery, but when those men came home the expectation was that women return to their womanly duties, obligations and responsibilities in the home, ultimately being forced to leave their jobs. I won't even get started about the inequities of the work place when women stepped into those roles. However, this World War II reality called on women through advertisement campaigns to send the message of just how needed they were in the work place, how necessary it was for women to participate in order to preserve and sustain the American way, how EVERY American citizen had the responsibility to contribute to the war effort, and how women had the capabilities and talents to fulfill the need. When men returned these messages disappeared and a female's desire to contribute to their community outside the home was discouraged and unacceptable.

This is a justice issue.

You see, we've continued to function in this manner. We are willing to make exceptions only when it benefits us in a particular way-- in order to protect our comforts, powers and privilege. There is no inclusion, collaboration or dignity in that.

So what will be the final authority on whether or not women can serve in leadership? Every authoritative voice (biblical interpretation, science, education) have found support or evidence to undermine inclusivity of women in leadership. Inevitably, as Christians we want to know what does the Bible say? Is this biblical or just some crazy feminist notion?

I hold to the conviction that God has been equipping both men and women to leadership all throughout the Bible. The passages that folks typically use to argue that women should not be in leadership are: I Corinthians 11 & 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:9-15. Paul uses some strong language to set some parameters for conduct within the church. My problem with how many have used/interpreted these texts to support their arguments is that they've dissected the text and cut it up to use certain admonishments in isolation from the Bible as a whole, as well as completely ignoring or not adhering to certain exhortations to the church and elevating certain aspects of the text to fit their prescribed ideology. For instance, in I Corinthians 11 there are specific ideas for how one should conduct him/herself when praying or prophesying in the church-- it speaks to cultural ways of behaving that we just don't adhere to or practice in our contemporary setting. These include: women praying or prophesying with their heads covered, men avoiding long hair, men praying without heads covered, etc. We just don't practice these things. Yet, admonishments about the conduct of women in church settings are held as central arguments and reasons for why women cannot lead.

The reality is that there is great ambiguity as to who exactly Paul was addressing in these texts particularly I Timothy 2. Paul's address in I Timothy 2 was most likely addressed to a specific group of wives who were interrupting service to ask questions that could be just as easily talked about at home. These questions and conversation were actually a distraction to the flow of the church service. It seems to me that Paul was specifically speaking to an 'in house' matter/ a 'local congregational' matter that was taking place in a specific church. What can be learned from this text is that as local members of the body sometimes there are behaviors and actions taking place in our home churches that are not edifying/encouraging/appropriate for the entire church community. If that is the case, we have the authority and freedom in grace to speak openly and boldly about such things. In addition, if this was to be interpreted and used as a universal text for all women (in all time periods, settings and situations) then we would have to isolate it from other texts such as Galatians 3:28 (There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus). You see, if we use texts like I Timothy 2 or 2 Timothy 3:6-7 as evidence that women are not to be in leadership-- thus they are not equal due to the hierarchical structures of the church based on these few instructions we are flying in direct opposition of the very nature of God's heart for all people as evidenced throughout the entire Bible and upheld in texts such as Galatians 3:28 and the creation account.

In the creation account we see that God's desire for humanity was one of: equality, unity, community and shared responsibility, especially as we are reminded that every person is created in God's image. People have used the word 'helper' in Genesis that is used to describe women's roles as inferior or lower status position. In actuality the translation of the word 'helper' is 'ezer knegdo' which means protector or rescuer. Here is an excerpt from the Called and Gifted publication put out by the Evangelical Covenant Denomination: The Hebrew words 'ezer knegdoare used as a descriptor for woman in Genesis 2:18. 'ezeris frequently translated as “helper,” which some have come to interpret or understand as an inferior or one in a supporting role. Unlike the English word “helper,” the Hebrew 'ezerimplies no inferiority; in fact, this word most frequently refers to God in the Old Testament, meaning protector or rescuer. Its modifier, knegdo, means “suitable,” “face to face,” “equivalent to,” or “visible,” and indicates that God created an equivalent human being to be a good companion for man. This rules out authority and subordination for either man or woman.

The reality is is that throughout the entire Bible women are gifted and ordained to leadership positions and are acknowledged as equal in the economics of God. We see women like the Judge Debra, The Priestess in Acts, Lydia and Anna the prophetess who anointed Jesus when he was presented to her in Luke 2. Many women were called and gifted to perpetuate the story of God and to bring the gospel to pass through Christ's lineage-- women like Ruth. And in Proverbs 31 you have the Epilogue of the wife of Noble Character. The woman described was a leader, a business woman in her community. She was respected and revered by those in her community because of her gifts of wisdom and discernment and essentially is a leader in her family. We cannot overlook these biblical examples of female leadership which provides support to the reality that God ordains & equips women to lead their families and communities.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's on.

I am so thrilled to be sharing in the news of my friend and collegue, Leah Klug who will be starting a church plant here in Seattle... The vision-- reaching new people, reaching more people.

Yesterday was Leah's last Sunday at Quest and celebrating this call on her life has been one of inspiration for me. We have been on staff together for approximately 8 years. She was the first cafe director of Q Cafe while I was the first community center director... We started our ordination track with the denomination at the same time and we've gone through so many of the changes and transitions at Quest together. We've also wrestled through many of the same questions, struggles and challenges around issues of women in leadership in the church.

The vision to reach new people, more people is not meant to be some catchy, corny Christian mantra, but it is definitely a reality in the hopes of the mission of this new church plant and the leadership of Leah. In reality, her background, perspective and hope will appeal to a different set of folks-- folks that may feel in other circumstances there is not a place for them in the church.

I am excited about what Leah will bring and I'm proud to know her. More info regarding the mission of her church plant to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Women in Leadership-- Is this for real?

I know, I know there's been lots of hot debate on the topic of women in leadership. From the political arena where Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were throwing their hat in the ring of the 2008 elections to our very local Seattle context where a certain hip, cool, conservative, preacher type touts that a real woman's place is behind a stove while only wearing an apron. Not everyone is okay with that female depiction or even agrees with the biblical interpretation that is used to support such ideas and after much back and forth and back and forth we find a few who will actually find a place for a woman in their leadership structure-- whew!

Here's the problem with this approach-- although, a place might be created, room to squeeze in a few females might be made and even while singing the glories of egalitarianism the problem still lies in the fact that it's only at the comfort and ease of a dominate structure set in place and that's been turning in motion for let's just say forever (in saving ourselves the trouble of calculating an actual timeline).

Now you'd be correct in sensing that my tone sounds sarcastic, frustrated and angry. And let me tell you why, because it comes from a place of pain-- where myself and many of my female colleagues have been told that we should be okay with that-- even better, we should be thankful that we have this space-- it's something, after all. And the pain comes from the place where each day we have one of two choices to make: 1) we can choose to be silenced and take one on for the team (this works well in church circles because of how it's tied into the tenants of the Christian faith) or 2) we can choose to try, as impossible as it may, to put on the male power suit and masquerade as 'equal' leaders-- as long as we never challenge the male structure-- instead learn to play within it which in the end means we have to leave behind the essence of who we are at home or in our brief cases every single day.

This essentially is a mixed message of-- we accept you as long as you don't really bring who you are to the table because we don't have room, time or interest in restructuring how we've always done things. This mixed message is everywhere-- it is in the business arena, political arena, church arena, educational arena-- everywhere.

A 'real' equal approach to a dual gender leadership structure is one of collaboration. It means looking at existing structures and collaboratively working together to reflect the voice and styles of both males and females. It means as much as females have to be shaped and changed and influenced each day by our male counterparts-- that males, too, are shaped and changed by our existence... The commitment to collaboration has to come from a place of desire in seeing sisters with freedom being able to use their God-given voices, talents and experiences towards the work of our missions. It has to come from a place of knowing that our missions, our work will go that much further with the ingenuity of the female perspective and we have to steer away from the ancient approach and ideas that that can only be done in a system where women are held as supporting cast members. The 'supporting cast member' category is killing us. It is literally zapping us of the energy to use our gifts and instead requires us to prove ourselves and to choose each day 1) will we be silent (which essentially means we don't exist) or 2) will we speak and find ourselves with an insurmountable wall of defense.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

To love.

In Henri Nouwen's book, Intimacy, he asks about the possibility of love by stating, "Is love a Utopian dream or a possibility within our reach?" As I've been picking up my pen and paper to begin the song writing process this has been the question that I've continued to play out over and over in my mind. Perhaps it is the fact that I am getting older and maybe even growing more cynical, but I feel weakened and even humbled by the overarching feeling of the impossibility of true, authentic, vulnerable love really taking place between one human to the next. I see this fluid dynamic take place in my interpersonal relationships and the reality that when I dig to the depths of my potential I realize that the motives that underlie my values are rather selfish and self-serving. Is there any real place within the human heart that is for the other?

Nouwen juxtaposes this between two positions: the taking form and the forgiving form. The taking form is about power. It is about the possession of the other. While the forgiving form is about trust and confession. It is the surrendering of oneself to another. Obviously, we all strive to fall in the forgiving form but let's be honest there is an interplay between the two and perhaps even the temptation or reality that we align ourselves more with the taking form.

So what of it? Where is the hope? I talked to a friend today about the distinction of friendship versus advocacy of the non-housed in our community. I talk a great deal about the need to show compassion and kindness and grace to those that are homeless but it really is so futile if it is not grounded in love. Yet, in our own strength somehow our sentiments really become about political gain or (as I mentioned in an earlier post) our 'narcissistic hits'. Where is the love? There is so much to contend, namely ourselves. How do we overcome so that we might truly love in a sacrificial way? Nouwen answers this question eloquently by saying, "If there is a need for a new morality it is the morality which teaches us the fellowship of the weak as a human possibility. Love then is not a clinging to each other in the fear of an oncoming disaster but an encounter in a freedom that allows for creation of new life. This love cannot be proved. We can only be invited..."

Sure, there are examples of this great love-- the ultimate one, Christ. But at the end of the day I have myself to contend. And sometimes it feels like an insurmountable wall that only can be approached with the humility to keep hoping and the commitment to hold tension.

Here is a song I wrote about that tension:

I remember the morning dew... on my skin
You do, you do, you're done
I remember the fabric... against my breast
It so, it so, you sew


The sea salt mist stings my eyes
We can't see
God see, God see, God come
You were timid... I held my breath
And it was good the stain sweat on my brow

Love's never easy
Love's never easy
Love's never easy
So you say

Love's never easy
Love's never easy
Love's not so easy
So you say

Monday, August 03, 2009

I am special.

The title of this entry is not meant to be some arrogant exclamation. No, instead it is the descriptor of my personality style measured by the Enneagram personality assessment. I am currently attending a class in Chicago for the denominations ordination track entitled: Vocational Excellence. I just got here today (which hopefully I will have energy and time to share stories of my travel). On our first day we received the results from both our personality tools: The Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs.

This wasn't the first time I took the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs. I recently took the Enneagram with the entire staff at Quest and at that time my results were the same. When listening to people share what personality they were there were groans of regret or disbelief but for me I couldn't have gotten a more accurate account of who I am unless I'd written it myself. I remember feeling that way the first time I had taken it. For the longest time I thought I couldn't be tracked or measured and I wondered if there was a soul out there that could understand who I was. So here is an excerpt of my personality description:

"You are attracted to and value originality, authenticity, individuality and artistic expression. You want to make the world a more beautiful place. You have an innate sense of quality... You value the inner journey... You have an appreciation for the tragedy of life and are especially sensitive toward sadness, loss and grief. You have a romantic, poetic, nostalgic way of being in the world". (These are the positive attributes of my personality)

Now here's for the not so healthy aspects of my personality:

"When you exaggerate your sensitive qualities too much, you over-identify with the idealized self image. You can overreact and dramatize. You are prone to melancholy, feel misunderstood and your distorted driving force or passion is envy".

Yes, that is me. I can look at this page and feel a certain sense of dread. I don't like the fact that I have a tendency to overreact or exaggerate my experiences and interactions. Yet, I find a glimmer of hope in knowing that I am who I am... that I am wonderfully and fearfully made and called just as I am. It is a simple and profound truth-- one, I think we all have a difficult time absorbing. And coming just as I am doesn't mean that I don't have the responsibility to grow and mature in areas of my life but it allows me not to be limited by weaknesses and inactive on the sidelines hoping that change will come so I can participate. 'Just as I am' means-- come and through the fiery and difficult process of surrender and submission you will be refined.