When you step out into the world and stand for something it generally means that there will be people on the other end of your challenge. Be they boycotts, petitions, vigils or signs on a bathroom, there will always be those who feel the need to not simply disagree and engage in a long-term discussion, but would rather take the easy route and zing the weak-sauce comment your way your way.
This takes the form of three sentences:
"That is just so Politicall Correct"
"You know it won't matter." Mizimise it's potentioanl impact.
"What a waste of time." Dismiss your use of energy.
A few weeks back I attended a candlelight service that is held ever year in front of city hall to remember the many people die on the streets of San Francisco.
It is one thing to simple say, i think you are wasting your time because I disagree with your postion on the issue. It is quite another to say that the action in itself has no merit. I mean come on, at least fess up to disagreeing on the issue rather than hiding behind strategy arguments. Puhleez.
There are three assumptions with this arguement
There is an assumption that any chance can happen with just one strategy and if it is not the one that the commentor likes then it is invaled.
There is an assumption that people do not engage in any other methods of action.
There is an assumptin that no good can come out of even the simpilest of public action.
Yep, I'm moving . . . not from one house or city to another, but blogs. I know, I know, try control your squeals of excitement . . . if you can ;-)
Just hear me out.
It seems like yesterday that I moved into my starter blog with blogger only to be lured over to typepad in March of 2006. But alas, with this post I am leaving www.reyes-chow and moving over the be a featured blogger at Patheos.com, a web portal on all things religions and spiritual. As part of the Progressive Christians group, I will be joining a cast and crew of bloggers from an amazing breadth of faith traditions. I am excited about a new beginning, but I also would be lying if I didn't acknowledge that this exciting transition is flavored with a dash of anxiety and trepidation.
Okay, I admit it, only the dorkiness of bloggers would see moving blogs as momentous as moving homes or cities. But, I'll tell ya, as I go through this process of saying goodbye to a comforting space where I have lived and shared for the past five years, it really does feel like I'm getting ready to load the moving van and trek across the country to a new home. I begin to set up my new blog space, as with any geographic or housing move, the same questions arise:
The last question is a good one and one that I have struggled with as have talked with the folks at Patheos over the past few months about a possible move. And after many emails threads, a great deal of stalling on my part and some honest negotiations about what this might look like, I am pretty sure that the next stage of my calling in life is to take some risk and venture into some new conversation circles.
But in case you are wondering, here are a few of the specific reasons I am moving to Patheos:
They want me - I have heard somewhere that the number one reason for one person being attracted to another is that the other is attracted to them first. I have to admit that being wanted is pretty nice. And after I had given them every excuse NOT to want me to join them, they still wanted me in all of my wandering, random unfocused progressive Christian glory!
The Gold Doubloons - One of the sticking points for me was whether I wanted to move to a platform where there are click incentives, basically do I want to get paid by getting people to visit the site? After coming to a mutually agreeable compensation schedule, giving up the ducats that my google ads have been generating, this was a no-brainer. I am certainly not buying this any time soon, but just to be transparent, there is some compensation that comes with the move.
Increased Buzz and Traffic - Shameless and unapologetically, I am trying to increase my visibility as I work on a book and look at some other projects post my church call. I will still cross-post on The Huffington Post and SFGate, but all of my blog content will now orginate from my Patheos blog. Not only will this move expand the possibilities for interaction and engagement with a wider audience, but as an internet extrovert there is an expanded opportunity to get to know new folks, their stories, their opinions and their passions.
What they are doing - The most important reason that I have decided to hook my wagon to Patheos is because I believe in what they are trying to do. In an age of growing religious pluralism and a glaring absence of healthy spiritual exploration and interaction, Patheos is filling that void with a balanced and broad online faith presence. Their attentiveness to the heart, mind and soul of humanity is shown in the ways they share content as well as by the range of bloggers and contributors who they have brought to the table. Most importantly, they are building faith bridges, not by watering down or finding some low common denominator between the traditions, but by asking people to express the fullness of each ones tradition: the intricacies, the struggles and joys. Very cool and worth being part of.
So there you have it, I'm leaving and this is pretty much my farewell post from reyes-chow.com. From here on out I'll be over at my new address http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ where I hope you will SUBSCRIBE to RSS FEED and continue to hang out. My new home is not quite set up and I'm still thinking about what it will look like at the end of the day,but in the end, I'm excited about the move and I hope to welcome you to my new place soon.
Thanks for hanging out thus far, it has been a wonderful.
Take a read of my "welcome" post and I look forward to seeing you over there.
[photo: brianna miller]
Sorry to disappoint some of you who might be looking for a "Top 10 List" of things that all Christians believe about such things as: abortion, sexuality, politics, Glee, hell, gambling, dinosaurs, baseball, immigration, Justin Bieber and/or the rumored cage match between Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow.
Tempting, but not gonna happen. I am no fool.
At the same time, I think this is an important question for people to grapple with, Christian and non-Christian alike. In a pluralistic age when the understanding of what it means to be "Christian" is so very complex, having these conversations with those whom stand on the various sides of faith, will only help everyone see one another as complex human beings rather than demonized caricatures; created out of our own convenience and arrogance. Far from wanting to create a pollyanna'ish culture of "Can't we all just get along?" it's my hope that we can thoughtfully engage in building a greater understanding of this broad community called, "Christian."
That's my story, officer, and I am sticking to it.
As I thought about this list, I admit that I wanted to compile a wordy set of beliefs to which one conform to in order for me to recognize someone as a "Christian." That list would feel pretty good to create and it certainly determines some of the ways I live my faith in the world, but I am not so naive as to think that my definition is the one truth of what it means to be Christian. I am also cognizant that not everyone comes out of the same flavor of the reformed, progressive, protestant tradition that I do, so I have to be doubly aware of my own theological bias when thinking about this question. So . . . here are what I think are essentials in creating the broadest scope of what I would consider "Christian." These are intentionally vague and screaming for nuance, but left open for each person and community to interpret and articulate their understandings of the Christian faith.
You might be a Christian if you believe . . .
Short. Sweet. And meant to inspire conversation, nuance and maybe a little spirited debate.
Over the past 16 - *gasp* Sixteen years?!?!? - of ministry I have had the pleasure of supervising five interns: Sayer Strauch, Derrick Weston, Nick Larson, Abby King Kaiser and currently Erica Rader. If you have never had an intern in your place of ministry it is really is quite wonderful. The practice of and reflection on ministry does not only benefit the intern, but I know that I have been given much from these relationships.
In the past few months I have had no less than five people inquire about being an intern at MBCC, so I know that there are some great folks out there looking for a meaningful place to serve and learn. There are a variety of places that do this placement work: seminaries, colleges, etc. but I figured I would provide another opportunity for folks to connect.
I know the biggest issue is money . . . mostly a church saying, "We ain't got none!" but I know of a few folks who might be reading this post who are in a fiscal situation where compensation could come in the form of housing or something else. I am not encouraging anyone to take advantage of folks who need an internship, but rather to be open to some creative solutions.
So . . .
Are you a community that might be looking for an intern?
Are you an intern looking for a placement?
If so, leave your info here and who knows . . .
Looking at today's weather forecast for San Francisco, this is EXACTLY why we tell folks to wear layers. 50-80 year 'round, and sometimes in the same day. Looks like shorts and a windbreaker is the order of the day!
12 years later and I still remember the day my Eldest child climbed her first mountain. She and I were hanging out at a local indoor playground where she was exploring the colorful structure in the toddler area. I was about six feet away as I watched her struggle to get over a one-foot high foam wall focused on reaching the colorful pile of blocks in the middle. She would get a little stuck just as she was at the top of the wall and start teetering on her belly like a stranded turtle. There was no way to know what would happen next . . . maybe she would fall face first onto the other side or maybe she would fall back on to her heavily diapered behind.
I watched. I waited. She teetered.
Oh . . . the parenting suspense.
As I sat there watching her determined self try to conquer, what for her was a mountain, I remember thinking to myself, "Go little girl, you can do it!" And then just like that, a well-intentioned mom swooped in and, with a gentle "Here you go sweetie!" lifted her up and over the wall. I thought nothing of it at first, but then it happened again and again and again. When she would get a little stuck, struggling to get over the wall, someone would come in and help her out.
Three times, back and forth she was not allowed to do it on her own. Now, I cannot be certain, but every time someone lifted her to the other side, I am pretty sure that Eldest gave them the "Hey lady, I can do it myself!" stink-eye. Eventually I moved a little closer and just as the next parent was about to make her rescue move said, "It's okay, she can make it on her own."
The sociologist in me widened my observation lens to see how other children were being treated and, yep, you guessed it, the only kids getting this kind of help were the girls. Now I am sure that no one was thinking, "Poor girls, they can't make it without some help" but that is the message that was being sent to my daughter. The message of what can be expected or assumed of girls was being sent loud and clear: boys can be left to overcome, girls must be helped; boys can be rough and tumble, girls must be pampered; boys CAN, girls canNOT.
As the father of three girls and living in a home where all of the fish are probably female as well, I fully admit that we have no idea what it means to raise boys in today's world of messed up expectations of masculinity and maleness. In the same vein, as a the parents of girls, 7, 10 and 14, we have a unique view into various stages of girlhood through our own daughters and their friends. Most of the girls we interact with are confident and thriving, but, sadly we also see girls as they begin to doubt their abilities, take on skewed images of self and start to expect less of themselves socially, academically and physically.
Simply put, the messages we send in word and deed about our girls have an impact on their ability to dream, struggle and thrive. [Retweet It]
It does not help when these kind of expectations still exist on the playground. Our Middle child, naturally athletic, has started playing baseball during recess. Recently she has become more determined and vocal about developing her game, including letting me know that her teacher thinks she has a "sweet swing." Turns out that some boys have recently begun saying that girls can't play baseball. While she may not be destined to be a 6'2" slugging third baseman, there should be no reason to think she can't play a little ball in the 4th grade and beyond.
Progressive school, good kids and still we hear, "Girls can't . . ."
We are fortunate to have a great school environment that will get all over these kinds of interactions before they get out of hand and my girls are surrounded by strong females, so we are confident that our daughters will be okay. But, as we know, not all girls are so fortunate. Girls that have these kinds of expectations reinforced at home, church or other formative contexts will inevitably own these expectations that are not born of reality, but of society's continued view that somehow women are less than men. And as we know, when girls begin to think less of themselves academics fall, unhealthy body imagery emerges and they accept and perpetuate abusive situations of all kinds.
To avoid these situations we must be diligent in avoiding placing empty expectations upon anyone, but especially our girls. Whether it be in the subtle messages we send like needlessly offering help when none is needed to the more dramatic ways that we direct their social, academic and physical lives, we adults must do our very best to raise girls who have expectations about life and the world that are driven by possibilities and hopes. The world will present our girls with plenty of struggles and obstacles as they live life so the last thing they need is for those who have the privilege of raising them to add to the mountains they must overcome.
And in case you were wondering, when left to her own devices, Eldest did conquer the treacherous foam wall multiple times . . . and has been leaping over, around and through life ever since.
Most church folks know that the two times a year that new people often come to church are on Easter and Christmas Eve. We also know that the number of folks that actually come BACK or develop a meaningful relationship with the church from those worship experiences is pretty low. So frustrating. Don't they like us? I mean really, we bust out the real dishes for coffee hour and everything. Come on people, give us a chance . . .
As we approach Easter 2011, let me offer an idea why about this happens and make a case for what we might do to change this reality. Basically, I think we give an inordinate about of attention to our Easter service. Yes, Easter is an important celebration in the life of the church and, yes, God is certainly is pleased when we worship and give thanks in God's name. But . . . I kinda think that God may simply be humoring us in our misguided attempt to throw an Easter party for God. I am sure God enjoys pageants and brass as much as anyone and I am sure God is grateful for those folks who do take the time to connect to the church even once a year even, if only out of familial obligation. But I would posit that God might be more pleased if we approached this Easter time in our worship life a little differently.
I am not talking about taking away the men's breakfast or canceling the Easter Egg hunt . . . as I would never encourage anyone to invite the wrath of a disappointed, empty-basket-holding toddler. Some of the special things that we do around this time are just lovely. What I would challenge us to think about is doing something radically different for our Easter worship services by not really doing anything radically different for our Easter worship service.
We put so much extra energy and time into our special services. We create special art installations, pull out the drama for the kids, we present choral pieces that require extra instrumentation and in most cases we do all of the above. In our hopes to please God, we go all out, especially for Easter. Well-intentioned rhythmic church activity, but activity that end up with people who are burned out and a worship service that looks NOTHING like the service that is helpd on a normal Sunday.
And why is this bad you ask? Why shouldn't we give 110% and do it all up for God on Easter, you wonder? Quite simply, because it usually is more about perpetuating our own habits and expectations, than about sharing our faith in meaningful and life-changing ways with those who might be searching.
Now I do not mean to dismiss the extra primping and preparation that comes with expected visitors. These are great expressions of hospitality for the stranger. The problem I have is that we too often put on a "show" for visitors rather than invite them to experience the community that is the church. How powerful would it be to have an Easter worship service that is inspiring, energetic, moving and transformative and be able to say, "If you have experienced something profound today, do come back, because this is what is like EVERY Sunday here at . . ."
You see, by creating these "productions," especially around Easter, most churches only perpetuate the practice of coming to church only on special days because we have, in fact, said that this day is more worthy than any others. The other thing that happens is that folks might indeed be inspired by the service to visit again, and lo and behold, "normal" Sunday worship is a let down devoid of the same energy, creativity and quite honestly, the commitment to worshipping God with joy.
So my "answer" to the rotating turnstile of Easter visitors is this: rather than put all our energy into one kick-butt worship service, use the Easter season as one that might inspire the rest of the year. We should plan our services with unabashed creativity and inspired energy as if this is what it will look like EVERY Sunday . . . and then we must make it so. In addition to the pageants and productions, this too may give honor and glory to God . . . and who knows, some new folks might find their faith along the way.
This Lent I have the privilege of being part of a group of bloggers who are offering reflections for the Lenten Blog Tour 2011. Sponsored by the good folks behind the new Common English Bible, you can even get a free copy of the CEB NT, see the end of the post.
The passages assigned to me: Galatians 2:20-21, 3:26-29 (CEB).
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith in God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.
26 For you are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you are Christ’s, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
Whenever I read Galatians 3 I am reminded of many a passionate debate about the "'isms" of the world: racism, classism, sexism, ageism, etc. When pushed on these realities in the church, well-intentioned people of faith often point to this passage and say that we should not talk about this stuff or should "get over" these things, because, "aren't we are all 'one in Christ Jesus' anyway?" This is said as if we just stopped pointing out that we do not always act as if we are "one in Christ Jesus," then all would be okay.
Now how do you argue when someone pulls the, "We are all one in Christ Jesus" card? Pushing back against this for even a moment is simply absurd. Heck, you might as well broadcast that you don't like bunnies, rainbows and babies dressed as vegetables.
What kind of Christian are you?
Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but it seems that to try and probe deeper into passages such as this must mean than one does not agree. Actually nope, it just means that, like most of scripture, we cannot just stop at the words on the paper. This is a classic, "Yes, but . . ." passage, in this case calling us to be so filled with Christ that, not only should we transcend the ways in which we naturally divide ourselves, but we must get beyond the easy answers that would make us stop moving towards real transformation.
It is far too easy - I might actually say lazy - to look at the divisions in the world and say, "If we could just live as if we were one in Christ Jesus, then everyone would get along." Galatians was all about who is in and who is out based on outward signs of faith, in this case circumcision. This was not just about getting along, but about the divisions that we created to preserve power and privilege. These words were written in the face of institutions and individuals being pushed to examine how they approach issues power: ethnicity, Jew over Gentile, economics, master over slave, and gender/social status, male over female. Tiday, far too often, the "one in Christ Jesus" argument is used to send a message that we need to forget those elements of our humanity and simply be "one." Theologically and intellectually this makes so much sense, but too often what we are asking of people is to buy into a "oneness" that actually perpetuates the very divisions that we are being challenged to reject. The "one" being the dominate group, those who get to define what is the normative existence of the day.
The three relationships are raised: culture, economics and social standing in gender are all about how power and social structures are used to marginalize and oppress the "other" in our midst. The real "poke in the eye" of this passage is not about calling those who are of the non-dominant culture to get with the program, but for those with power and authority to see that their privilege directly contributes to the divisions in the world and thus the divisions of the church. The "one" that the world wants us to be is that of the power and dominance, where as the "one" that I believe Christ is calling us to be is one who gives up power and dominance in order to seek justice and wholeness.
If I am to allow Christ to live in me and be sure that I don't forsake the grace of God that has been extended, I must repent of the ways in which I contribute to the brokenness of the Body of Christ. Healing will not come from leaving behind those things that make us uniquely created by God, but rather from leaving behind the cultural and institutional divisions that our sinfulness has built and perpetuates.
Every one of us plays a role in perpetuating a culture that marginalizes and oppresses and each of us sits in a place where we feel the burdensome weight that each can bring. We each live as both/and rather than either/or, so in this season of Lent, we must repent of those ideas and practices that create division, brokenness and death of the body of Christ and embrace those that truly make us one. Only then will we truly know what it means to be filled with the grace of God and only then are we truly being one is Christ Jesus.
Peace be with you.
The Give Away: If you want a free copy of the CEB New Testament, all you have to do is be the first person to tweet the following:
I'll be in touch to get your mailing info.
Winner at 7:50am PDT was @jayseedub.
About six months ago, in an attempt to streamline my life and give myself permission to not accomplish everything all at once, I took a soft stop on a book project that I had been working on for the past year. But times have changed and I am once again open to the possibilities. So with my pending departure from Mission Bay Comunity Church at the end of May looming and after some encouraging conversations with friends and some peeps in the biz, I am buying another ticket for the book-writing train.
I am still not convinced that my story and thoughts are all that book-worthy, but this is just one of those things that I've always wanted to do, so I am going to carve out the time to do it. My awesomely understanding spouse and I have agreed that June will be my month to finish the book, so during that time, I am going to hole up as much as possible and finish the darn thing.
For those that are wondering about the "next thing" for me, this is just one thing that I'll be working on in the next stages of my life, but pretty much everything else sits in various stages of "conversation." While, there is little anxiety for me in this uncertainty, your prayers are appreaciated, both for me, my family and for the congregation that I am leaving.
If you want to read the intro and a little about why I stopped the first time, head on over to "Embracing the Gray" a book writing adventure comes to an end and have a looksee.
This weekend families in San Francisco will begin receiving school enrollment notifications for the 2011-2012 school year. We went through this stressful time about nine years ago with our first child as we entered the public school system and are now going through it again as the same child enters the high school process. For those awaiting the letters and emails, this is a pretty stressful time, so I just lift up prayers of perspective and peace for students, families and school communities during this time.
Just a bit of background for those not from San Francisco. Over the years San Francisco has had a city-wide system where people submit a list of preferred schools and are admitted through a lottery system. Charter schools operate in a similar way and independent schools have a variety of application and financial aid systems. There are constantly changes to the system, some of which I think have been good and others not so much, but what you need to know is that this is not a place where, on the first day of school, you just walk down to your neighborhood school.
Yes . . . many of you are saying, "Back in my day, we just went to the school closest to us . . . and we liked it!" While I certainly feel this way sometimes, my wife and I have chosen to raise our kids in an urban context where there is simply a different system that has to address a diversity that simply does not exist anywhere else in this exact form. What I consider entitled suburban values such as this do not work here if we hope to have any chance and building a diverse and thriving educational experience.
So we wade in, figure it out and try to make good choices for our children. In all honesty, I think the San Francisco Unified School System gets a bad rap. For despite budget issues, a uniquely diverse community and people who do not see the importance of public education, SFUSD does a fantastic job. I may not always agree with what they do or what the Board of Education decides, but, as I have said before, a healthy public education system vital to a healthy society. So in the midst of the maelstrom of criticism that will begin this weekend, I want to offer three points of affirmation for SFUSD. Yes, you can find exceptions to each of these, but I challenge you to, as you levy critique, to also acknowledge the ways in which SFUSD helps our children thrive.
DIVERSITY OF CHOICE - As went through the search for a high school for Eldest, we explored a variety of options: private, charter, traditional public and alternative public. While I get why it would be easier if there were no choice and everyone just attended the same school, I deeply appreciate that, even within a public setting there is a wide variety of styles, foci and sizes. From charters like City Arts and Tech, to alternative schools like The Ruth Asawa School of the Arts to traditional schools like Balboa, my daughter felt like she would both be challenged as well as nurtured in a variety of settings. This kind of diversity allows students and parents to chose the setting where the child will have the best chance to thrive. Add in the private schools like The Bay School, The Urban School and Lick-Wilmerding and our plate is overflowing with options.
OVERALL EXCELLENCE - Yes, there are some schools that are struggling to raise test scores and have issues that are detrimental to building a good learning environment, but as I have spoken with friends, lead school tours and interacted with young people and teachers throughout the city, we are doing pretty well. The caliber of person that is being raised and nurtured in San Francisco is commendable. The teachers who have committed their lives and energy to our children is herculean to say the least. This is not just about academics and scores, but about a willingness to see and live in the world in a different way, and this is the primary reason that we have chosen to raise and school our kids in the city.
SAN FRANCISCO VALUES - Whenever I hear people use "San Francisco values" as a pejorative, I laugh. You see, even though I am "conservative" in the context of San Francisco elections - mostly because I own property and do not want anarchy - the our city's values around environmental issues, family structures, ethnic diversity and well . . . the kick-ass food compel me to embrace this bubble in which I live. Usually proud and often smug, raising our kids in this environment is an intentional decision to ground them with a worldview that we think is positive, progressive and good for the world. As we have experienced education here, SFUSD has played a central role in maintaining a consistency between our city values and our educational ones. Sure, we do not always live up to the liberal and open values that we may espouse and we have some serious work to do around class, but you know what, at least we are trying . . .
So there you have it, some positive vibes to add to what will surely be a cacophony of voices that will soon be flooding the social networking airwaves.
If you care to comment with a positive affirmation, feel free to do so here or take a jaunt on over to the commenting crazy that is my SFGate blog.