Hopeful Creating

Me being “artsy” and “inspired” by my Passion Fruit Iced Tea from Sack’s in Berkeley

One of the highlights of my “job” is working in coffee shops.  (I use the term “coffee shops” to encompass a number of places that, basically, have tables and chairs that I can sit at comfortably, at-length and be outside of my apartment… WiFi, excellent background music, and tasty drinks/food are bonuses.)  Some may enjoy the cubicle/office thing and consistency and mini-fridges, but I prefer the chaos of hauling my life (my MacBook Pro and journal) on my shoulders and camping briefly in some space fashioned precisely for the thirsty/hungry nomad.  It’s also a lot of fun to be around other humans once in awhile.  I mean… my stuffed-animals and I are very close and they make great company, but even we need some breathing room every so often!

I tend to write almost all of my prayer letters from the well-worn seats of these very places (I would list some for you, but I’m afraid you’ll go there and then take up a valuable seat in these oft-crowded spaces).  And the reason isn’t that my desk/chair at home is not comfy enough or anything… but being around other humans, drinking well-sugared beverages, unusual smells, different Pandora playlists/stations, etc. all bring a surprising amount of inspiration to write–to create.

Epic has a site entirely devoted to various resources developed “in-house”–by the creative and brilliant minds of its own staff (check it out!!).  Recently they came out with a series of nine elements that describe what Epic is About.  I recommend reading all of them (the first one is here), because they are extremely well-written, thorough, and encouraging!  But recently I’ve been resonating with this one: Epic is About… Hope.  And particularly this one line: (Agh!  I know, it’s totally unfair to just highlight one part because it doesn’t nearly encompass everything that’s so awesome about the truth shared… but then this post would be EVEN LONGER–so uncool)

Hope is fueled by love to create: whether through works of art, exploring innovative solutions or possibilities, the development of people, or the shaping of a culture in which leaders can grow and thrive.  When our hearts have truly been shown a better reality than what we see around us, we cannot help but work to create that for others.

Sunday in church, the pastor shared what he called, “the theology of work:”

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

And the whole sermon was on this idea that it is in the image and character of God to create.  The first impression God gives us is that He creates–He works!  And when He makes us in His image, we also work… we also create.  And it’s not just “creative” professions (like artists, creative directors, etc.), but ALL of us… in our work/jobs/lives we image (it’s a verb!) God!

I couldn’t help but think about the “Epic is About…Hope” article as I sat in service this morning.  And even as I ponder the calling the Lord’s given me right now–which is to share of His calling on my life, His work already done on college campuses, His plan for the future, and to invite others to join in His work–one of the most poetic ways to describe what I “do for a living:” I am hopefully creating the Kingdom here with God.  

A portion of the wall above my desk–inspiration for when I don’t want to go out

And what inspires me to create, to tell stories and terrible jokes, to pursue passions… to paint, even, are the glimpses into the amazing and intricately diverse world He’s placed us in.  Those odd smells, different people and languages, great music, sweet treats that I find so wonderful at coffee shops are part of this crazy world that the Lord loves to death.  I believe what John 3:17 states: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  We need the variation and the weirdness and the surprises in our lives to get us out of our M.O.’s and into the infinitely good possibilities and combinations of people, talents, passions, and flaws in order to taste the Kingdom.  And we ALL participate in bringing the Kingdom to our doorsteps by bringing our full-selves (talents, passions, flaws) into our workplaces, homes, church communities, neighborhoods and cities.  Simply by doing your work (even if unemployed and even if homemaking) and doing it to the best of your God-given ability–we create the Kingdom around us.  Doing our work well reflects the image of a god who also works well!  Asking the Holy Spirit to fill you at work images God!  Even if the workplace seems so dark, God’s not far off because the Holy Spirit’s in you.  And what the pastor said so truthfully yesterday morning: “God wants to establish His Kingdom where you are.”  

This is so rambly and all-over the place.  But I hope you take your place as co-workers with God… co-creators with God… to help create the reality of a glorious Kingdom with an almighty and gracious King here in the places you work.

Advertisements

My Love Letter to Women

Jill and Mary (middle & right, respectively), just TWO of the MANY amazing women I’ve met through Epic 🙂

I’m so grateful for the women in my life.  There are many… so many who’ve left an impact.  But one of the things I’m especially grateful for in Epic, is how it platforms women and how there is much exposure to how awesome REAL women can be.  

Okay, not that the men in Epic aren’t cool or anything.  There are many amazing men as well, but I will not write love letters to them–ew.  

So this is my love letter to so many women I’ve met in and through Epic Movement… please forgive me for the mushy/rambly-ness!

Dear Princesses of Strength, Beauty, and Wisdom,

Thank you.  If that’s the only thing I could ever clearly muster in this post, it is the first thing.  Oh, and this next thing too: I love you.  And this: you’re amazing!

I’ve been moved and shaken to my very core by your beings.  You accomplish so much–graduate degrees, international missions, blogs/articles, books, marriage, babies, screenwriting, deep friendships, conferences, sermons, speaking gigs, decor, and SO much more… while looking AMAZING!  I’m so blown away by all you do.  But I’m even more amazed at your sense of voice, your pursuit to follow Jesus for yourself, your loyalty to the things that are you.

You’ve taught me to follow in your stead.  Though I know you’ve faced and carried much pressure in your lives, the fact that you have followers (both Twitter and non) hopefully doesn’t bring you much more.  I’ve seen you let Jesus move despite yourselves.  I’ve seen you laugh at your own desire to control.  I’ve seen you cry when receiving pressure from places you hoped to receive encouragement, grace, and safety.  And as you’ve grieved and grown and laughed, the Lord has lifted you.  And this has brought me MUCH comfort in difficult times.  The Lord lifts us.

Please continue to fight for your relationship with the Lord!  Please continue to allow yourself to feel and be.  Please continue to reach and push boundaries and stretch as far as you want.  Please let the Lord remind you what a glorious and delightful daughter you are to Him… without you having to do/earn anything.  🙂

With love overwhelming,

Whitney

Goodbye.

Image

I’m not good with goodbyes.  I swing from either SUPER emotional or insensitively numb.  Regardless, I rarely allow goodbyes to honor and do justice to everything prior to that… simply because of fear and the dread of the pain that’s felt in grieving ANY end.

Earlier this week, I found out that my friend was hit by a drunk driver and found dead later.  He was 23.

I can’t breathe when I think of the fact that he’s gone.  Not just that he’s gone… but that I may never see him again.  I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if he’s relishing in the beautiful, glorious room Jesus prepared for him… or… No… I don’t even want to consider the alternative.

A news report asked the question: “What if…?” in regards to if someone stopped to call the ambulance or the police right after the accident, could he still be alive?  I recently saw a clip from Disney’s movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian where Lucy (the youngest of the humans who travel in and out of Narnia) asks Aslan (the lion): “If you had come, would all of those people still have died?” and Aslan responds: “There’s no way to know what would have happened…”

So much tragedy has come to my attention in painful, glaring darkness.  I am perplexed and saddened to my core.  Suddenly, I feel challenged to trust in God’s goodness… that is TRIUMPHANT over evil, darkness, sin, and death… right?  It MUST be true!

Sorry, there’s no real “point” to this post… there’s just so much on my mind.  One thing I’m recognizing: The weight and urgency of my job and calling.  There is a finite time to our earthly lives and to people’s openness to the Gospel and “sound-teaching” as Paul describes in 2 Timothy.  I’m incredibly privileged, and moved… but also just very… mmm… what’s the word for the feeling you get when someone’s entrusted something incredibly precious to you like a child or expensive jewelry or a car or something?  Pressured?  Weighty?  Scared?  I don’t know.

Please pray for the Funai family as they grieve the loss of a beloved son and brother.  Please also pray for the rest of his family and friends who also mourn the loss of an exceptional individual.

Thank you for investing your and my life in eternal things.

Confession: I Haven’t Been a Total Jeremy Lin Bandwagon-er

I have a confession to make: I’ve not been a huge fan of the Jeremy Lin craze.  

While at first this seems like a harmless, no-big-deal sort of thing, after I’ve reflected over the past few days, God’s shown me more of the poor condition of my heart.  And I’m embarrassed that I let that happen.

Initially, yes, I too was blown away by Lin’s sudden success–more because as a first-time starter in the NBA his stats were unusual (I’m a retired Fantasy Basketball-er) and he continued to perform at an extremely high level!  And though I definitely noted his Asian Americanness and appreciated commentary on the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” I could feel myself refuse to identify with this part of his story.  I would not allow myself to feel any pride in the fact that Lin’s Asian heritage was shedding any light onto the collective Asian American story.  I even joked that Lin actually wasn’t breaking any stereotypes within the Asian American context: he went to Harvard, he’s excelled in athletics, he’s a good son… etc.

Then a completely separate event showed me that what was coming out of my heart and mouth regarding Lin and his success was cynicism and denial.  

An Asian American friend gave me some word suggestions as I tried to formulate some sentence on my prayer letter.  Though they gave me some, they seemed confused.  In my ignorance and idiocy I teased them for not understanding what I was asking.  Later, I found out that they felt hurt because of my teasing and also because my teasing brought to the surface an insecurity of theirs regarding their grasp of English.

As soon as I heard of their experience, I felt deep remorse.  But it wasn’t just for them and for the pain I caused them.  I started remembering how my mother told me she was teased for not knowing English and interactions where friends would comment on my dad’s accent, and I felt I had to agree even though I never thought he had one.  My friend shared how they felt for their own parents and how they may have been teased or taken less-seriously because of their understanding of English.  And the experiences of people asking me how I learned to speak English so well, or when kids in school used to ask me how to speak Chinese and I felt the pressure to lie and make up sounds to make them leave me alone felt so real again.

These very real memories and painful situations ARE a part of my story.  Though I may not have directly experienced them all, they are instances that I share in as I choose to love my parents and love my friend.  And though my heart desires redemption, I instinctively went to denial as the way to give the pain less power.  By being cynical, I believe I become “untouchable” and “unfazed” by those types of experiences.  But I realized that if I deny that those painful experiences matter, then I deny any chance of redemption and healing.  I deny myself the possibility of forgiveness and growth, as well as deny others the possibility of understanding and reconciliation.

A ministry partner recently told me of their excitement about Jeremy Lin.  And I’ll never forget how she looked when after I said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool what’s been happening to him.”  Her eyes, very serious, her lips, trembling as she said, “No.  It’s about time people knew what it’s like to be Asian American.  You’ve grown up in a different generation, where there are more of us now.  But in my life and your parents lives growing up, people didn’t want to hear our story.”

I’m sad and incredibly sorry to say that I was so careless.  And that I disguised my carelessness as being phlegmatic.  I’m sad that I chose to serve myself and the “bliss” of ignorance instead of sharing in my friend’s journey… his parents’ journey… my own parents and grandparents’ journey… Lin’s journey.  I’m sad that those experiences are present in my own life too and that we still have so far to go for those misunderstandings to become real arenas of dialogue and redemption.

But I’m grateful for grace through Jesus Christ forgiving me that allows my friend to forgive me and allows me to forgive myself.  I’m grateful for the pioneering of people like my parents and that ministry partner.  And I’m grateful too for those experiences as they continue to teach me how I need to love and suffer with others.  But most of all I’m hopeful for God to heal.  I’m hopeful for His Kingdom to continue to be established on this earth… within the Asian American community and beyond.  And ultimately hopeful for when there will be no more tears… nor pain… and the former things will have passed away… (Rev. 21:4).

Too bad!

This morning I had the opportunity to lead worship at my home church, Palos Verdes Baptist, and at one point I was so overwhelmed by the words… “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us…” and “His faithfulness stretches to the sky” (from the songs “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan and “Your Love Oh Lord” by Third Day) I almost couldn’t continue singing.  In my embarrassment and immediate desire to press-on/stuff/hide how I was feeling (hooray for falling back into my “default” patterns!), I took a couple pauses to regain my composure.  But in those pauses I got to listen to the rest of the team and the congregation sing-on beyond me.  And it was even more beautiful to hear others proclaim God’s praise…that I almost completely crumpled to the floor!  Thankfully, the Lord had me finish the set and not cause any ruckus to distract people from Himself.

I’ve already started listening to Christmas music… (that’s where the “Too bad!” comes from).  And for those who don’t listen to Christmas music ever or only after Thanksgiving, I’m warning you that the video below IS a Christmas tune!  It’s on David Crowder Band’s new Christmas album called “Oh For Joy”… and it’s an audience singing my personal favorite Christmas carol: “Silent Night.”  Crowder plays and sings after the audience singing: “It started so quiet… oh what a night.”  Why do I share this with you?

  1. It’s a Christmas carol… and it’s super beautiful!
  2. I want to…
  3. Crowder found it more powerful to record others singing about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than just him singing it, so I do too.  I hypothesize that it’s because of that sharing nature of music (bummer Napster/music industry!  music is such a communal force and will continue to be shared) AND the sharing nature of God.  For some reason I find it so beautiful to see others experience the Lord.  Not to say I don’t value my own relationship with the Lord, but it’s SUCH a gorgeous thing to see Jesus love on another and see them respond to it.

Yeah, that’s all.  Here it is!  Enjoy!  And have a terrific Thanksgiving Weekend!!!

Silent Night – David Crowder Band “Oh For Joy”

There are some mornings…

… where I just wake up wanting to be with the Lord.  It’s not necessarily because of a bad dream or a difficult period of life, but just a deep longing to finally be with my Savior and Lord.

This morning, is one of those mornings.

Today Campus Crusade (Cru) is having one of its many World Wide Days of Prayer.  No, we don’t exclusively pray on this day, but we make extra efforts to pray together.  It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from  Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:

Loneliness is something that came with the fall.  If loving other people is a bit of heaven then certainly isolation is a bit of hell, and to that degree, here on earth, we decide in which state we would like to live.

This morning, I woke up missing students.  I woke up missing my team.  I woke up missing friends I have or haven’t seen in a long time.  I wanted “a little bit of heaven.”  Though I stand absolutely firm in the gratefulness I wrote about in this month’s newsletter, this morning I feel I have to grieve.

I have to lift up my pride, frustration, and loneliness to the Lord today.  Doing MPD (Ministry Partner Development aka. support raising) is what God has called me to.  It’s not a means to an end.  This is my job until He sees fit.  While I’ve had to check my attitude only a couple of times, I realize that I still see my role on campus more importantly than I ought.  I’ve even grown to feel entitled to support coming in or being on campus!

Friends and ministry partners, I need your prayers!!  I will NOT take away any of the extravagance nor scandal of His lavish grace by claiming I deserve it because I’m working hard or because He’s called me.  I want to see this time, job, calling, relationships, life as they truly are–GRACE (a completely free-for-me-but-costly-to-Him gift).

These verses (2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV) brought me much peace and reminds me of His grace this morning:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

I love that Peter attributes the wait for Christ to return to God’s patience.  It makes it seem like God also can’t wait to see me and pull me up in His arms and carry me Home… but He’s waiting so that He could do that for you, for others, for the world too.  And I love that about the Lord… He’s waiting too.  🙂

So until the day of the Lord, I will do as I’m so graciously called to do… and that is to follow Him and share my calling with others.

Since you were so patient in reading this, here's a photo I took of an anemone!