Dec 282012

// This is the original manuscript of my talk shared at Urbana 12 PANA Lounge (Pan Asian North Americans) today — watch video //

Right now at Urbana 12 there are over 6000 Asians and Asian North Americans. We’re now living in the 21st century and communication is wide open for everyone. Social media gives anyone and everyone a voice, and yet it still elusive for people to find the real life stories of Asian North Americans who are zealous for Jesus Christ. As successful as we are as a racial grouping, the most educated and the most wealthy as a group, our voice online is rather muted and hard to find. We can change that by raising our voices together!

Imagine this – every day between now and the next Urbana 2015, one Asian person would share their life story openly, how Jesus Christ has made a difference, it only takes 1100 people, and we can raise our voice together to be a new generation of Asian people experiencing wholeness in Jesus Christ. We can break the power of shame. We can be the role models and examples that we all yearn to hear and see and know.

Allow me to share my story of freedom from shame.

When I became a Christian in high school, I wondered how God would use me. I was just a little guy, that’s how I saw myself, that’s still how I see myself. I didn’t have an amazing testimony like all the others I had heard. I wasn’t at the top of my class. I’m not an accomplished successful person. I didn’t have a sensational conversion of being an ex-convict.

Like many of you, I want to know God’s will for my life. I’m now 46 years old, and I think I’m just beginning to discover the answer. 

My family immigrated from Taiwan to the United States when I was 8 years old. I’m the oldest of 3 boys. My parents are Chinese and we spoke Mandarin at home. Our family was very traditional and not religious. Our family ran a small motel business in a small town of 20,000, in Winchester, Virginia. Being the oldest son came with expectations of being the responsible one, with hopes for success and bringing honor to the family name.

Life was a very predictable narrative: go to college, get a degree, get a job, get a house, get married. Then have some babies and start a family, raise them to go to college, etc etc etc. It’s all very simple. Just add water, rinse, lather, repeat. It’s the Asian American circle of life.

But I thought there had to be more to this life. I was introduced to Jesus Christ by a truck driver staying at our motel and he shared the Gospel with me. I heard that Jesus promised an abundant life, and I wanted that.

I just didn’t know how to get it. I wanted to be sure of my faith before I took the next step. And I had my hangups and fears. I was a timid person, easily intimidated, unsure of myself. I’m not a practical person like everyone else in my immediate family, so I felt bad about that, and I felt bad about feeling bad.

What I knew was how to be responsible. I studied computer engineering at Virginia Tech. I was doing the right things. I got a job as an engineer. God brought a retired Navy chief to disciple me. 

Then I took a leap of faith. I felt a call to ministry because I thought I was faithful, available and teachable. So I packed up all my worldly possessions and went to seminary. I graduated 4 and a half years later. Then I pastored for 5 years.

And then all of that came to an end. I felt so hurt and confused. The bottom fell out from underneath of my feet. I was humbled to the point where I had to ask for help. 

It’s humbling for anyone to be asking for help. It’s that much more humbling for an Asian person to ask for help because it shows weakness, it shows you’re not enough, it shows you’re not good enough, you’re not enough. Something is wrong with you. It’s not that you’ve made a mistake; not you’ve failed at something. It’s that you are a failure.

In that year of healing, I found a name to the sadness that clouded my thinking all of my life — I was diagnosed with clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Being on medication for this kind of thing is not all that different than being on medication for high blood pressure or diabetes.

Why do I share this with you? I share my life with you, warts and all, so that you can see Christ in me the hope of glory. 2 Corinthians 12:9 — Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

As I’m sharing a glimpse of my story of my own vulnerability, I’m actually in the midst of a very personal vulnerable time right now. It would be unwise and unhealthy for me to open the flood gates and share all my raw emotions and messiness — because being vulnerable doesn’t mean you dump all your junk on everyone everywhere.

Dr. Brene Brown (research professor at the University of Houston) has extensively researched the areas of shame and vulnerability. I highly recommend you watching her talks on Her research has found that shame is something we all have experienced; it’s that fear of disconnection and a feeling that one is never good enough and worth loving. And she discovered two differences between those who struggled with shame versus those who were free from power of shame: (1) they felt worthy of love and belonging, and (2) they embraced vulnerability.

You are worthy of love and belonging because God loves you, for just being you. Christ has done it all for you, your life is not about performing or measuring up. One of the most healing quotes I heard from Pastor Larry Osborne that’s stuck with me: You have no one to impress and nothing to prove.

And this is my invitation to you: step up, speak up, live it up.

Step up with a bold faith as you experience the love of God in every part of your life, and then you’ll be able to offer up every part of your life – your skills, strengths, as well as your weaknesses, pains, and limitations. Use everything you’ve got to make a difference in the world that only you can make. You don’t have to be a superstar, you don’t have to be number one, you just have to be you.

Secondly, speak up. Share your life story with people, start with those you can trust. And as you find courage and healing, share more of the story of your life. Lean into the power of social media, if it can overturn the government of countries, it can do so much more for the Kingdom of God!

And, lastly, live it up. We are to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Your life is so much more than duty, obligation, and responsibility. Life it up with passion, zeal, joy, and enthusiasm. As a people, we’re really good at getting the grade, honing our intellect and skills. In the 21st century, the world needs more than just good knowledge, the world needs people who are fully alive with all their emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence.

When you are Asian American, you are more than merely American, more than Asian. In Christ, you’re even more than that. Show up in all that you are — your strengths and weaknesses, both successes and failures, your desires and dreams. Offer your life as a living sacrifice and live it up!

I want to be part of a tribe that’s all about erasing shame. We are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” especially for us as Asians and Asian North Americans. Let’s share our lives together for the glory of God and the healing of the nations.

Dec 272012

I’m in St. Louis this week for the tri-ennial student missions conference called URBANA 12! Follow along all the activities via the Urbana 12 Live Blog where I’ll be blogging highlights from the main sessions. And, you can get a taste of Urbana 12 via livestream video too – so you can see and hear talks from the main sessions every morning and evening. (click-thru to the Live blog for links to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram)

What’s particularly unique about this conference is its speakers lineup and programming is very multiethnic and global in perspective, and organizers have decided to not fill the stage with known popular speakers with bestselling books. Instead, with a discerning heart, carefully selecting voices that we as the Church (capital C) need to listen to in order to be a generation fully-engaged with God’s work all around the world. Quite a countercultural intentionality to go against the grain of market-driven forces. And somewhere in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 are anticipated to be in attendance – official attendance count has not been released yet.

I’m also feeling very honored to be included in the speakers’ lineup in the Urbana PANA Lounge, a place for connecting Pan Asian North American participants. The best connecting point for this PANA Lounge is its Facebook group. I’m on deck for tomorrow (12/28) afternoon, and while there isn’t livestream there, the organizers are planning to record the sessions and release videos in coming weeks. With almost 4,000 Asians and Asian North Americans, my talk will be an invitation to raise our collective voice to make a bigger difference in the world.

If you’re in St. Louis and/or at Urbana 12, let’s connect! Text me at 949-243-7260

Dec 172012

Words cannot express the horror, sorrow, grief, anger, and all the dark emotions we’re experiencing after hearing of the tragedy this weekend. That doesn’t mean we don’t use words. Here’s some words that Jason Chu put together into poetry — 27 (memorial for the Newtown school shooting) // spoken word

Many meaningful actions are needed. More than words, more than random acts of kindness, prayers too. It’s going to take real change and big changes.

For those of you who pray and remember, this is the list (as released by police) of the victims in Friday’s shooting spree on the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:
- Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
- Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
- Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
- James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
- Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
- Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
- Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
- Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
- Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
- Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
- Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
- Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
- Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
- Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
- Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
- Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
- Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female

Why would God allows such a terrible thing to happen? Answers don’t help, in times like these, and as Tim Keller humbly noted: “… we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are.

Dec 122012

Today is that magical numerological date in history 12/12/12 and at 12:12:12 I was sitting down for lunch at a place called Chef Chen because a friend suggested it via Yelp. Where were you?

As Christmas 2012 draws near, the Chuang family (my dear wife and sharp son) are preparing for the 2012 OC Christmas Tour where it’s our family tradition to worship with the extended family of God at as many worship services as we can get to. Last year we made it to 10. We love Christmas!! This year we were aiming for 12, but because of how it falls on the calendar, the odds are against us. Here’s the spreadsheet of Orange County churches with multiple Christmas worship services we know of — add a comment if you know of another one.

Dec 042012

All too often I hear people complain about how distracting social media is. That’s not a fair comment, because there are far greater distractions like interruptions of a phone call or a person that stops by your desk (office, or cubicle), and wouldn’t you know it, that happens right when you’re getting traction on your work. What social media might be doing is adding and compounding the issue of distractions and interruptions that derail us from productive work.

The biggest time-waster at work is inefficient meetings (only 8% say that meetings are 100% productive).
And depending on who you ask (or survey), the numbers may differ. This different survey puts more blame of time-wasting on the digital rather than the physical:

… at companies with more than 1,000 employees, these kinds of digital distractions can waste more than $10 million each year.

And in this social media-obsessed age, typical water cooler banter and pointless meetings are no longer the greatest time-wasters at work. Almost 60% of workplace distractions involve social networks, text messaging, IMs or email. In fact, navigating between multiple tabs and windows to keep an eye on a wide variety of apps is a huge distraction in itself.

In the end, almost half of the employees in this study said they worked just 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted or distracted. More than half said they wasted at least one hour every day day due to distraction.

That’s the data. Data doesn’t motivate nor inspire you to action, the kind of behavior modification and change in lifestyle you need to eliminate the distraction of social media. Social media doesn’t have to control you. You have to choose and decide to be in control of your time and your social media usage.

I know people who’ve punted and just say no to social media. Is that really the solution? That is a solution, though it is not a very relevant one for those of us who do want to be effective in connecting with people near and far by using social media. Get smart with engaging the culture and being immersed in the culture, not by over-reacting by separating and unplugging in fear.

At the core of it all, methinks, it is about how you make the conscious choice of using your time moment by moment. (Naturally-born planners have it made in this respect; but I’m not one of them.) My top lifehacks on social media and personal tech: Turn off alerts and notifications; check email only 3 times a day; get a 2nd monitor (to cut down window-switching time). And, one more thing, I’m experimenting with: turn off the smartphone for time blocks.

Some other thoughts + insights + reflections + wisdom::

#video Joe Kraus made these remarks about our Constant Culture of Distraction and the crisis of attention, being disconnected, and losing ourselves

Minimizing Distractions: Managing Your Work Environment

We all face distractions on a daily basis. Distractions not only lower our productivity, they also increase our stress.

You probably already know what distracts you the most – phone calls, emails, instant messages, Internet browsing, interrupting co-workers, and so on. Strategies like scheduling email checks, turning off your phone, and leaving the office for a quieter environment may eliminate distractions so that you get more done.

Great tips abound for how to keep social media from being distracting:

Take Control of Your E-mail, Tame the Web to be More Focused, Change Your Work Environment to Shore Up Productivity

Silence Your Smartphone, Mute Your Inbox, The Nuclear Option

For more reflection and consideration:

Is Being Permanently Connected to Social Networks Good?

There’s an ebook by Leo Babauta focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction that you can get in a free and paid version.