Speaking Up

It happened in a swanky Bay Area hotel. We had finished a long day and had gotten together to debrief and socialize before all heading back to our homes throughout the Bay Area and beyond. It was a work event.

Everyone was enjoying finger foods and drinks and making small talk. We talked about the weather. Because that’s what you do. And that’s when one of my colleagues (an older White man) casually made a joke about how someone’s wife was so cheap that she won’t turn on the heater until it’s below 40 degrees. He said something about her being Asian and implied that her cheapness was due to her Asian-ness.

I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe my ears. The anger welled up from inside me.

I looked at him directly and spat out the words. “She did that because she’s cheap! Not because she’s Asian!”

I turned to the Southasian American woman colleague, let’s call her Priya, sitting next to me and asked, “Did he just really say that?” She replied, “I know. That’s so R word.” I said, “Yeah, that’s hella racist! I can’t believe he just said that.” Priya agreed, “I can’t believe he said that either. I am shocked.”

He went on chatting with other colleagues close to him, not acknowledging my comment or apologizing. The moment was over.

Except I kept thinking about it. I couldn’t let it go. I told my husband about it. We talked about it at the dinner table. I told my friends. I posted about it on Facebook. I even told some of my coworkers. Someone said I should report him to HR. I looked up the compliance hotline number. I didn’t make the call. He was going to retire soon anyway, I won’t have to work with him much longer.

Fast forward a couple months.

I had a final meeting with this group of colleagues and the perp happened to not be on the call. As we concluded the call, I felt like I should say something. If there was a perfect time to bring this up, it was now. I hesitantly said something like, “I’m not sure if this is the right place and time to bring this up but, well, I am doing it, and um.. well, at the meeting we had after the event, Paul (that’s not his real name) made a joke that made me uncomfortable… and I’m not sure if any of you remember and some of you were gone already so you weren’t there when it happened but I thought it was inappropriate and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. He made a joke…”

I told them what he said.

Priya chimed in, “I remember it and I’ve been thinking about it too! He was talking about so-and-so’s wife!” It was even worse than I had remembered it. Apparently, he was talking about a coworker’s wife!

We talked about what had happened and how inappropriate it was. How insensitive. He should not be making jokes like that. They acknowledged the difficulty in talking about things like this and thanked me profusely for bring it up. For saying something. They said that they were so sorry that this had happened. They affirmed my feelings. He had told borderline jokes before and needed to be aware of the impact of that kind of behavior. Know that it was not okay.

They asked if it would be alright with me if one or two of them had a little chat with him. They wouldn’t mention my name, of course. I said that that was fine.

I got off the call feeling so supported and affirmed. They had responded with such kindness. They took my concern seriously and agreed that it was not right. A small part of me had been scared that they would dismiss my concern. It’s because he’s so old, they might say. Or he’s retiring soon. Or the worst, “That’s just the way he is.” But they didn’t. They applauded my courage in bringing this to their attention and assured me that they would address it. What he said was not okay. They were not okay with it.

I am in the middle of reading How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram Kendi and I think I was putting what I learned from the book into action. I was trying my best to be antiracist. I raised my voice instead of being silent about a racist behavior in the workplace.

Although it was scary, I was so proud of myself for speaking up.

Afterwards, I felt free. I could finally let it go.

– Mary

Last Post

If anyone wants to read my last post, I’m happy to share the password. I’m not sure why I don’t want to just put it all out there but if you are a involved in my community and are curious about why I left Solano Community Church, get in touch. I’m an open book.

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Trump is a Liability and We Will Pay

I just read that the Trump administration is being sued by immigrants whose children were torn away from them and sent to foster care, where they were sexually abused. Trump used money and fancy lawyers to silence Stormy Daniels, and God knows who else. At least when he wasn’t president, he had to use his own money to cover up some of his misdeeds. But now, America has to pay the cost for the inhumane, cruel, and criminal things that him and his administration are doing. In fact, we are already paying. We are paying for the lawyers who are defending these inhumane and cruel policies. We are paying for the ICE workers who are locking children up in cages.

Who will end up paying restitution for these horrible crimes in the future?

Me.

American tax payers will have to pay. My taxes have risen considerably since Trump took office and it scares me to think how much the United States government will have to pay in the future to settle all of these lawsuits and to give these victims the restitution they deserve. Trump is driving this country into bankruptcy.

#becauseOfRHE

Last Saturday, I was reading your book Inspired. I had borrowed it from the library, along with all your other books, as soon as I got home from the Why Christian conference. It was my first time seeing you speak in person, although I had been following you for a while. The conference concluded with the Eucharist and while I kind of wanted to stand in the line for Nadia (I had recently read her book Shameless), I found myself at your line and you shared the body of Christ with me. I remember your gentleness even in that short moment. I loved how you and Nadia emphasized that everyone, EVERYONE, was invited to the table. I thought, this is how it’s supposed to be.

Last Saturday, I was reading your book Inspired. It was already overdue so I wanted to finish it soon. Also, once I got into it, it was so good that I couldn’t put it down. I was reading the story about the woman at the well through your words and the story became something new. All the male pastors who had preached that passage to me implied that the woman at the well was somewhat of a slut. So.many.marriages! I secretly thought so too and judged her for it. But you noticed something different and so I saw it too. Maybe her husbands had died and she was just following the law spelled out in Deuteronomy. I saw her life and suffering in a new light and this bible story became even more meaningful for me.

Last Saturday morning, I was reading your book Inspired. I was also checking Instagram when I saw the post by Jeff Chu and learned of your death. Immediately, the tears came rolling down my face. I started sobbing in my brown leather chair and into the sleeves of my thick green cardigan. I had been checking your health status updates but never once had I considered that you might actually die. It was inconceivable to me. Surely, our good God would not let that happen! You had just given me the the Eucharist! You just had a baby! You were organizing the Evolving Faith conference! You had so many books that you were going to write, that I wanted to read! I couldn’t believe it. I still cannot believe it.

Last Saturday, I finished your book Inspired. It was already overdue and reserved by someone else and I didn’t want the next person to have to wait one more day so I finished it as soon as I could and I returned it to the library. I cried as I read it. A lot. I cried as I read about Hagar, Ruth, Queen Esther, and Mary Magdalene. I cried as I read about Mary, the mother of Jesus and about your almost 1 year old baby who would grow up without you. I cried as I read about the women who financed Jesus’s ministry and how I had never heard a pastor mention it ever, in my 42 years of listening to sermons.

Last Saturday, I drove to the library to return your book along with Kathy Khang’s book Raise Your Voice. The librarian scolded me about removing the slip cover from Kathy’s book because it would make it more difficult for them to get it back to the right place. I apologized profusely and then I told them about how you were the author of the other book I was returning and that you had died that morning. I burst into tears and the librarian looked at me sympathetically. I mumbled something about your just having had a baby as I shuffled out of there, carrying my tears out with me.

Rachel Held Evans. Thank you for living your life so beautifully and for preaching the Good News so fiercely. Thank you for authoring such inspiring books and showing me what God is like through them. You ran the race so hard. You were a good and faithful servant. Because of you, I feel emboldened to continue to be affirming of my LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters. Because of you I feel reassured that God calls women to be leaders just as God calls men. Because of you, I am learning to love the church, even though I don’t agree with her theology. Because of you, my heart is inspired to stay tender and vulnerable, even when it hurts so much.

Thank you, Rachel Held Evans. Thank you for reminding us that we are but dust, and to dust we will return.

Thoughts on The Great Commission

I understood the Great Commission (below) freshly today.

Matthew 28

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Whenever these versus have been taught to me, the emphasis is on “Go therefore and make disciples.” This is probably one of the most quoted verses and the one upon which all missions organizations are built. Many churches also use it in their core values/mission statement/vision statement, etc. I must have heard more than a dozen sermons/messages on this verse over the course of my life, if not more. I’ve also read evangelism books dedicated to how we can “Go” better.

I was learning about authority and spiritual abuse today and as I was mulling over this, the thought occurred to me that the preface to the Great Commission is Jesus saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”

I wondered, why does Jesus say that, right before giving us a command to go and make disciples?

It didn’t really make sense to me.

But clearly they are connected since Jesus puts it together.

In light of all the #churchtoo revelations lately, I have been particularly devastated by the sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels (and his lack of repentance) and of the abuse of more than 1000 children by priests in the Pennsylvania diocese and the cover up by the Catholic church. I grew up Catholic and admired Bill Hybels from afar so these revelations hit me hard.

What an abuse of power and authority! And I don’t think that Jesus wanted the church to be a place where a person had this sort of authority and power over another person.

Maybe that’s why Jesus makes it clear that HE is the one who has the authority. Yes, he is commanding us to live as an example like he did, and as we live, to make disciples, but we are not the ones to exercise authority over others as we do this. All authority has been given to HIM and HIM alone.

Process

I’m not a big fan of process. I like efficiency and productivity. Process seemed like a barrier to all that.

But as I’ve gotten older, I am realizing the importance of process more and more.

I was listening to the book of Job a couple of days few weeks ago. I wondered, why is this book so long? Why does Job go on and on about his trials with his friends. Why do his friends go on and on. And why does God go on and on and ask Job tons of questions at the end? Why not a short and sweet story like in the gospels.

Then I realized. It’s about the process.

The book of Job is about process.

And the importance of process.

The trinity that I consist of (mind, body, heart) has a hard time being a unified trinity. What my heart wants, my head says no. My body reacts and has demands (sleep, food). My head says do this or do that or what about this, and my heart doesn’t want to budge. It feels unsettled.

So how does one go about integrating the trinity of the self? Process.

What is process anyway? I’m not sure exactly what it is but I think it has something to do with time, reflection, and, of course, change.

For me, process involves finding and deciding on the right words. Creating the story to explain the facts. Brene Brown taught me that my brain is wired for story. We get an endorphin rush when we create a story to explain our experience. And our brains do not require a statistically significant quantity of data to create the story. Unfinished stories feel, unsettling. So I make up a story that seems to fit at that moment.

Inevitably, I rush the process. I don’t wait for all the information. I don’t make an effort even, to gather all the information. I am not content with the not knowing. The uncertainty. The unsettled feeling. So I fabricate. (Brene calls this a conspiracy.) Endorphin rush of a finished story. THE END.

*quick side story: The other day, I saw a zip lock bag full of toiletries on my side of the bathroom counter. I was angry at my spouse and thought, “Why can’t he put them away himself.” But then I remembered that he knows I like to take the unused toiletries from hotels. And then I thought, “How sweet of him to remember to bring them for me.” See how quickly I tell stories to myself? This all happened in a few seconds or less.

But the book of Job is so painfully long. Job asks “Why?” nineteen times. He doesn’t understand why all these terrible things are happening to him. He demands an answer, an explanation from his friends, and from God. He considers the options and keeps asking why. He doesn’t quit. He keeps at the process. For a long time.

And then something happens. He gets a reply from God. In the form of 55 questions directed back at him. I don’t really know what that means, but I believe that God honored the process that Job endured. God didn’t give a short and cute answer. God was patient to let Job get it all out and hash through it all with his friends. Even when they gave him bad advice.

Process is messy. And when you’re in it, you don’t know quite when it will end. You just have to trust the process.

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