Are you kidding me?

So I’m reading the sports section over lunch when I see a story about Spain’s Olympic basketball team taking a photo…wait for it…pulling the outside corner of their eyelids upward.

Seriously?

I’ll try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve never been to Spain so my understanding of Spanish culture is limited to that of my junior high and high school Spanish teacher’s attempts at teaching language and culture. They didn’t intend to offend, but that, according to Spain center Pau Gasol, “It was something like supposed to be funny or something…”

It is not like funny or something.

What do you all think? Is it funny? Offensive?

This Chink is Angry

My son has been bullied and now he is so angry. And I am heartbroken.

I have some wonderful childhood memories – family road trips, my favorite dress, walking to the corner grocer to buy candy, the sound of Dad playing his harmonica to wake us up in the morning, the smell of a day’s worth of Mom and Grandma’s cooking.

But I also have vivid memories of being the first Asian American in the suburban school district we moved to. I remember Gwen, who later became a good grade school friend, asking me why my nose was so flat and my eyes were so weird. I remember being bullied, walking home with my sister trying to ignore the boys and girls following us spewing awful words and threats. I remember being on the bus when a few kids thought it would be funny and original to call me a chink and gook and tell me to go back home to the rice fields. Don’t you think that if I could be in the safety of my home, away from all you idiots, I would go home?  I remember one time “retaliating” by screaming at them all the profanities and mean words I could string together…in Korean. It made me feel powerful. I could say to their face anything I wanted with no consequences.

But there were consequences. I grew up actually feeling rather powerless. I did not have a voice, at least not one that others could understand. And now as an adult, I find myself in situations where I think I’ve said what I meant, repeated myself, and then raise my voice with words and tone that clearly articulate and express my anger and frustration.

So it breaks my heart to know that my son has suffered deeply at the hands of a bully. We’re walking through this together with him, but it’s so hard. I have to remember that when he vents at me, he’s not really venting about me. He’s venting. He’s angry.

I’m angry. I’m angry with myself that I didn’t listen to my gut when things started to change with him. I’m angry that the school communicated to me that things had improved. I’m angry that the Evil One continues to attack our hearts and souls into believing lies about ourselves and others.

Lord have mercy.

Perfection


There has been some buzz and some media coverage about 9-year-old Lin Miaoke being selected to “sing” during the opening ceremonies in Beijing. They call her the “smiling angel”, but apparently her voice wasn’t as angelic as her face so they dubbed over her voice with that of Yang Peiyi.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to respond. There was some chatter on various blogs and amongst television commentators about the Communist Party’s decision to present a “flawless image”, the pressure for perfection, the “fake” performance.

It was a bit funny to me. It’s easy to point fingers at China and then say how lip-synching (and CGI fireworks) mar the overall quality and impact of the opening ceremonies. Does that mean the opening ceremonies weren’t perfect? 

But then here in America we have “America’s Next Top Model” and “Make Me a Supermodel”, Teen Glamour and Teen Cosmo, etc. Seriously, is it so crazy to believe that the Communists would share the Western world’s obsession with beauty and perfection? I don’t live in a country where party leaders decide what is acceptable in terms of beauty, but I do live in a country where the freedom to choose still leaves women always falling short and in the endless pursuit of perfection.

It’s sad, don’t you think?

Control issues

My husband and my children will tell you that I have control issues. I like the sink empty. I like my bowls stacked in fours. My shirts are hung according to color – with long-sleeved shirts currently on the bottom row and short-sleeved shirts on the top. My label maker is my best inanimate friend.

So the blog move is really about control. The old site was created by one of my co-authors, and I didn’t mind that she was the only one with password access…until she forgot the password and I got bored with the layout. So, any changes to the blog were never to be.

Now, I’m not a very faithful blogger. I marvel (and have discovered some of their secrets) at my more faithful, consistent and provocative blogging friends. I don’t aspire to those heights. I just wanted to be able to control the color/design of the page and tinker with a few things.

So there. And now here we are.

This is not my public journal. Just some thoughts on how the complexities of relationships, culture and faith all play out in my little world. Thanks for joining me.

I guess they forgot about us

I’m still laughing…

The scene: It’s bedtime in the Chang/Khang household. The boys are in their beds. Peter sits on Corban’s bed. Bethany and I are squished at the foot of Elias’ bed. Peter begins the evening reading from a book of Bible stories. Tonight’s story is the creation account.

Peter: “Now the animals had a friend to take care of them. Man was much different from everything else God had made. Man had a soul…God told the man that it was his job to take care of this lovely world. Finally the daylight began to dim…God was pleased because everything he had made was very good.”

Bethany (squeezes my hand): “I guess they forgot about us, huh? God just created man and then it’s done? Hey, boys! Dad! What about us?”

Kathy (squeezes Bethany’s hand right back while trying suppress laughter): “You’re funny. I’m proud of you.”

I swear, Bethany has never sat in on any of my talks about sexuality and relationships. Maybe she’s more ready than I had guessed.

moving my posts

Well, for the past few months I (Kathy Khang) have been the only one of the authors to post rather infrequent posts on this site. I had hoped that my fellow author would figure out here login so I could gain access to change things on the blog, etc. but alas the password seems forever lost.

So, I am moving my attempts at blogging to another site so I can tinker with the format and deal with my control issues (wink, wink). Thank you for reading, and see you over at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com
Kathy

Crabby pants

I’ll rarely be accused of eternal optimism. It’s just not in my genes. But every morning I wake up expecting great things. Not things like “today I’ll win the lottery” but more like “today my children will know they are loved by me”.

Well, let’s just say I’m hoping tomorrow goes better.

My idealized memories of summer include fresh tomatoes and strawberries from the garden and hours of roaming the neighborhood on my bike. My parents both worked full time, and there was little time or money to shuttle me and my sister from day camp to tennis lessons. Summers meant completing Korean language worksheets my mother would copy and assign to us, watching WFLD-ch 32 for cartoons, reading, drawing, arguing with my sister, and staying out of trouble. There were days when my sister and I left the house in the morning and didn’t return until dinner.

But summer for my kids has been a tumultuous mix of games of “Life” or “Sorry” with the kids (literally and figuratively), one delightful afternoon at the Botanic Garden, and many mornings and afternoons of dragging the kids to swimming lessons, tennis lessons and tae kwon do.

The lessons are an example of parenting out of my own personal issues. I learned to swim in the 4th grade on a family road trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve never been fully comfortable in the water. I want my kids to be more comfortable in the water. I also never picked up a tennis racquet until high school gym. Let’s just say it was rather humiliating. I want to help my children avoid gym class humiliation. And the tae kwon do thing was simply a result of Corban and then Elias wearing us down with their requests to try the culturally-relevant martial art.

So, instead of blissfully memorable summer days by the pool, riding bikes and taking fun excursions, we are having the summer of Crabby Pants. Some days I am wearing the pants. Some days it’s Bethany or Corban or Elias or some volatile combination.

It’s rather frustrating and confusing knowing that having time to spend at home with the kids is one of the very things my immigrant parents worked so hard to give me a chance at having this “easier” life. So, why am I and the kids so crabby? Surely it’s not just because of video games and high-def television.

What are you all doing to keep this from being the summer of Crabby Pants?

Our debt is paid (well, at least this one is)

We wrote the last check to Clark Township Ambulance Service this afternoon.

Two years ago this June, our youngest child Elias suffered a series of seizures while we were up at Cedar Campus training students in evangelism. We heard words and phrases like “life-support intercept” and “life-saving measures” while Elias had a team of medical professionals and beeping machines crowd around him and crowd us out of the room. He was wearing his red “Cars” t-shirt and army green cargo pants, and he looked so small and lifeless that afternoon.
Elias and I had four ambulance rides and our one and probably only ride in a private jet – a medical air ambulance that flew us from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Ann Arbor. The head of the pediatric neurology department at the U of Michigan hospital lead a team of doctors and excited med students on Elias’ case.
We learned a lot about MRIs, CTs, EKGs, blood draws, intubation, extubation, ventilators.
We learned a lot about despair and hope, prayer and God’s voice, control and surrender.
And we learned a lot about grace and the people of God. Within hours, people around the world, most of whom we will never meet this side of heaven, were praying for us and on our behalf – uttering prayers that at times we didn’t have the energy to speak or hope ourselves. People helped pack up our belongings, care for our other two children, open up their home, offer their cars, call up medical specialists. I am still moved to tears when I remember the outpouring of love and care and compassion.
God’s provision for us continued months later as the medical bills kept coming and my colleagues at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship opened up their wallets to help us pay for the mounting bills.
How did that happen? My then-supervisor had a fund set up at her church and the director of Asian American ministries sent out a letter to the Asian American staff of InterVarsity, inviting them to care for one of the family. As a national ministry, we often refer to ourselves as a ministry, a movement, an organization, a family. For ethnic staff, there is a deeper affinity having a common history, a common story and heart language, and in this situation my Asian American staff family did what our families of origin have modeled for us – Christ’s sacrificial love.
Their selfless giving moved my parents who in their decades of church ministry had never seen such a response. 
It has been almost two years, and Elias has yet to have another seizure. Until this month, we had monthly reminders of our dark night of the soul as we made payments to cover the bills. Those monthly payments completely overshadowed by Elias’ laughter and playful soul.
The ambulance check? The airlift check? The hospital check?
Check. Check. Check. 

Mom, can we talk?

I came home earlier than usual tonight and noticed the light in my daughter’s room was still on.


“Mom, can we talk?”

A dear friend of hers has not been eating lunch. “Amy” goes through all of the motions, buying lunch or bringing something from home, eating a few chips, taking a sip of water, and then gives the rest away or tosses it out. Amy says she’s not hungry. Apparently Amy has not been hungry for lunch for at least three weeks.

My daughter was in tears. Lunch period is the only time these two see each other during the day, but a few friends have also noticed Amy’s lack of appetite.

“Anorexia. What if it’s anorexia? Does she think she’s fat? She’s not fat, Mom. She’s beautiful just the way she is. She needs to eat.”

In my dark moments, I look at my daughter, and I worry. I watch for signs of depression (something I’ve struggled with). I watch for signs of an eating disorder or preoccupation with weight (something I’ve watched friends struggle with) – making sure she isn’t just pushing food around or going to the bathroom after meals. I watch for my shadows cast onto her tween years…

My awkward stage lasted a good 10 years. Bad haircuts, glasses, braces, uncool clothes, a flat nose and almond-shaped eyes evolved into more bad haircuts, glasses, straighter teeth, clothes that screamed “board room” or “goth”, a flat nose and almond-shaped eyes that were forbidden to be tainted with eyeshadow. My sense of rhythm, my $2,000 smile and my killer moves got me a spot on the pom-pon squad, but even the varsity letter couldn’t cover up the fact that I felt, and actually was, very uncool and very misunderstood.

So I watch my own daughter and wonder if she’ll feel anything like I did. I watch for the awkward stage as girls shed their little girl bodies and giggles and find their way into womanhood and reclaim their laughter and voice. I watch for the tsunami of hormones to rage into door slamming declarations that I’m ruining her life. So far, the hormones have focused on her forehead and height.

“Bethany, how do you feel about yourself? Do you know how beautiful you are? Do you know how God sees you?” 

“I know, Mom. I know,” she said with a smile that held nothing back. “I like the way I am. I’m just worried she’s starving herself.”

We prayed for an opportunity to talk with Amy and for courage to be honest and ask questions. And I prayed in my heart that both Amy and Bethany would know and believe deep in their hearts, minds and souls that they – as physically different as they are – are both beautiful, strong and wonderfully, fearfully made.

Oh, Lord. Please help her know. Please help me to guide her well.



Have I feminized the church by submitting and being silent? Or how can I become Christ-like if Jesus is the Ultimate Fighting Champion?

I’m confused.


I’ve seen this list – “Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained For Ministry at Serving Bread” linked on several websites during the past few days. The comments in response range from high fives and laughter to not-so-brief sermon outlines on why women should not teach/preach/be ordained/so/on/and/so/forth.

Personally, I almost cried. Yes, a few of the reasons brought a smirk to my face, and I laughed…out loud. I’ve heard each one of those reasons turned around in some form as an argument against women taking any form of leadership in the church. But I was quickly reminded of how I’ve been deeply hurt, and paused. I do not want to be the cause of such hurt for my brothers.

For me this isn’t an “issue”. Issues can often be boiled down to convenient sound bytes or 32-point headlines. No. I can’t boil this one down to 15-seconds because my story and the stories of my sisters can’t be reduced to that. No. Women in ministry/leadership is life.

So I’m confused because in the same week I’m also reading posts and comments about the feminization of the church being a turn-off to manly men. Phrases like “chickified church boys” and “Ultimate Fighting champion” popped up. The call to reclaim the masculinity of the church is getting louder. Somehow women who are not allowed to lead/teach/hold authority over men have so incredibly influenced the culture of the church that some believe it’s time to pump up the testosterone, grab a weapon and reclaim the Bride.
So now Jesus, instead of being a fair-skinned, wavy-haired blonde with blue eyes who sits by sheep, lambs or little children, is now being painted as a chest-thumping, nose-punching dude who in some other version of the story took down those guards in the garden.

If I’m getting all of these messages straight I’m supposed to be transformed, become Christ-like, which should be a manly dude who had calloused hands as he prepared to lead a revolution. But I’m not supposed to be like that because I’m actually a chick who has chickified the church because I only want the sensitive-Jesus.

And what about my Asian American brothers who are often reduced to slanty-eyed geeks (anyone remember “Sixteen Candles”?) or kung-fu masters (and Jackie Chan still can’t get the girl)? Or my African American brothers who are reduced to gun-toting thugs? Or my Latino brothers who are reduced to border-crossing “illegals”? Are they manly enough or too manly for the church?
I’m deeply offended that any male pastor would speak of women with such a derogatory tone. I’m hurt and angry that the few manly men left in the feminized Church, no matter what stand they take on women ordination, aren’t speaking out against such belittling speech about their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. I don’t want politically-correct rhetoric, but I do long for grace-infused conversations with people ready to learn from people whose cultures, experiences, and heart languages are different; willing to be corrected, admit they were wrong, confess they wronged others; open to the possibility that we have a way to go to understanding and following Jesus.

I’m sad because it seems I am not the only one who is confused. Are we are losing our way?