Aug 032010

Eric Bryant‘s book gets a reboot as Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World, the book formerly known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas. The book now has its own website, sermon series, small group materials, blog tour

This book is an accessible and easy read. It’s filled with real-life stories of how to step out of one’s comfort zone to build real relationships with real people of all kinds: someone of a different ethnicity, a different economic class/ different pay grade, different political persuasion, different lifestyle, different religion. And interspersed with Biblical stories and guest authors chiming in too.

I know for me, if I only looked for people just like me to befriend, I’d be all alone. I’ve rarely ever found anyone who is like me. And that’s ok. It’s really a good thing to get to know people who are different. The Bible has something to say about people being made different anyways: having different gifts, different roles, different parts.

For those of us who find it challenging to step out of our comfort zone, it’s good to have a friendly voice come along, like this book, to show us how to get past our discomforts and to live out of faith and not out of fear. I know I can use the help. Thanks Eric.

Nov 062009

Conflict is something that will always be. It is neither good nor bad, it simply is.” [cf. Sam Chand]

The incident regarding Deadly Viper had set the online world ablaze, and very uncomfortable words of pain festered in the open space [cf. read this summary]. My prayer was that the key leaders at the core of the conflict would resolve it privately, walking through their respective pains together with each other. This direct conversations has since happened offline in private, and an appropriate resolution is in the works. A public statement has been issued. I commend all involved for giving of their time and energy to walk thru this via dolorosa.

There’s already quite a number of thoughtful reflections about this incident posted::

I want to offer a few more ideas in debriefing, with which I’d anticipate some people would disagree with. Conflict in the open was a good thing for 3 reasons [cf. The Necessity of Open Disagreement by Stephen Shields] ::

  • This shows us what conflict resolution can look like. Conflict is not a pretty thing. We’ve all seen how ugly it can get, how destructive it can be, how it can ruin relationships. By being in the open, via social media, we saw how the conflict surfaced and moved towards live offline discussions, apologies, forgiveness, working towards resolution. There is a better way through the conflict. After all, conflict simply is. And I for one am tired of overly-positive spin that’s all too common in evangelical circles; I think the younger generation can smell spin a mile away.
  • We heard new voices open up their heart and soul. While I did not read every single comment in the initial blog posts, a wide range of voices from new names spoke up, both Asian and non-Asian. It is not easy for anyone to share their pains, particularly Asian Americans, for fear of being misunderstood, misrepresented, or shamed. Asians tend to be a little more (or a lot more) sensitive than non-Asians because of its shame-based culture. Social media empowers anyone and everyone to speak out. This helps us to empathize with the offended much more than signing a petition. (Now, not every Asian American finds this publication offensive, granted.)
  • We’ve got a long way to go with racial sensitivities in the church. A loooong way. Conflict that arose up over a relatively minor incident, in the whole scheme of things, shows how little experience we collectively have to just start any discussion about faith and race. And, yeah, these issues are complicated and messy. They don’t sell books nor increase conference attendance nor make churches grow rapidly in size. It doesn’t fit neatly in the systematic theology section.

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Nov 032009

Wow. These blog post comment threads at here and here about unintentional racial stereotypes is blowing up. Big. Time. [cf. summary]

I think that discussing highly-emotionally charged issues in an asynchronous public forum like the online blogosphere is mostly ineffective. One party describes the pain of the impact from the (alleged) offense, while the other party tries to describe the original intent, all sincere and good. To quote Sam Chand, “The difference between reality and expectation is conflict.” Both sides have unmet expectations. Both sides have different perceptions of reality. Conflict ensues. It’s more than misunderstanding.

I’ll confess that I’m rather new to the impact of public communications by influential leaders. I prefer a world of open book open source unfiltered communications, and am learning to filter and edit based on readers’ response. But realizing that words mean things, and sometimes words can be mean things to the listener even though the speaker didn’t intend it.

I’d be curious how other influential Asian American leaders like Eugene Cho, Dave Gibbons, Charles Lee, Ken Fong, would respond. My guess is that a direct conversation between Mike Foster and Soong-Chan Rah, in a safe private environment, will bring faster resolution than any further color commentary.

[update 11/4] Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite have issued a public statement that “some of our earlier messages … were mixed in with some defensiveness on our part. … we deeply regret anything we did to offend our Christian brothers and sisters in the Asian and Asian-American communities. … that is why are we reaching out this afternoon to hear the concerns and the best way to move forward together in a positive way that corrects past mistakes, respects individual viewpoints and, importantly, advances the ministry for everyone.”

Oct 252009

Earlier this week, I put an anonymous poll out to my peeps, with this simple question: “For those who know me from offline or online, how much of a people person am I?”

I don’t think of myself as the consummate people person, whatever that means. I confess that my personal visceral reaction when I see a person with a big toothy smile is a tinge of suspicion, that they’re hiding something, have an agenda, or out of touch with reality of life that’s a mix of ups and downs.

So I put out the poll to get myself a reality check, because how I see myself is only a part of what’s real via self-awareness. To not be self-deluded, there’s also being open to what others see. And, there’s also what no one sees or knows — what only God knows.

It was strongly suggested for me to read John Maxwell’s Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships. I got the book out, again, to learn more of what I may have missed. Now, back to the issue at hand.

How do you describe what is a “people person” anyways? I think the label would have a wide range of perceptions and definitions, as does the labels introvert and extrovert. Extroverts recharge themselves by being with others, while introverts recharge by being alone.
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Sep 032009

Being on vacation, I’ve resisted making plans — I find planning to be drudgery work. So I’ve been quite spontaneous, even though that makes it hard to sync up with others who aren’t able to be spontaneous with me at the same time. Nevertheless…

Got to connect with Mary Beth Stockdale on this wetoku video chat interview today. We talked about her experience in being a part of a community with the online church, and how online relationships are just as real as their offline counterparts.

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Feb 262009

Okay, it’s no more than 26.4% real. Here’s my math, to show my work:

We have 5 senses: see, hear, touch, taste, smell. The online world allows us to see and hear one another. That’s 40%.

(Aside: I don’t think we want taste or smell. And, touch is one thing that’s hard to reproduce in any mediated way. And being a hugger myself, I do like touch, but can’t get that even from live & in-person people I’m around. And, when I’m in an Asian cultural context, that doesn’t help.)

There are 3 dimensions in the real world: height, width, depth. With web video technology, we can cover 2 of them, so that’s 66%.

Albert Mehrabian‘s describes that face-to-face communication consists of 7% words (verbal), 38% tone of voice, 55% body language. Web video technology transmits all of this, so that’s 100%.

40% x 66% x 100% = 26.4%
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Nov 282008

I think I’ve been gifted (and cursed?) with capacity for the messiness and depth of relationships, even though it may not be apparent for those who are stuck on first impressions. Which is to say, I’m not very good at small talk. So when I read this insightful email from a pastor friend, I had to get permission to share them with you here.

“How do you have intimate relationships?”

Sincere Inquiry was my response!

Not just general inquiries about the person, their background, family and careers.

Sincere inquiries that push the limits and boundaries of acquaintances. Questions that evoke emotions from one another. Questions that release shouts of passion from the deepest parts of one’s soul. Questions that take you to new territories in your relationship preventing you to return to the old worn out fields of superficially.

A sincerity that desires to know the created being in front of you and the purpose the Creator designed them. A sincerity where you lose yourself in them and you decrease with each sentence they share about themselves.

Intimate relationships begin not with available time but intentional sincere questions. We make time as we desire to do nothing more then inquire about the unique created being were engaged with.

My prayer is that you will have deeper intimate relationships this weekend as you spend time with family and friends this Thanksgiving.

Sabastian Huynh
conVerge Family Church
(Garden Grove, CA)

Sep 062008

Some things I’ve found recently (and way back when that I hadn’t blogged):

I’m a huge advocate for cross-gender friendships, that men and women can be friends. But, I also know in the contexts I live and work in, I’m not as vocal about it as I’d like to be. Biggest value-add: un-objectifies women. I’ve not blogged volumes about it as my virtual friend Dan Brennan over at Faith Dance, and I really respect his thoughtful insights about how to navigate those sticky issues, especially in an oversexed society.

Compare and contrast the “10 commandments” for avoiding any hint of sexual immorality vs. this Eugene Peterson quote and follow-up reflections:

I’ve not lived cautiously. I have friendships with women. I touch them. I’ve been more careful in school than I was in the parish, where everyone knows me. It’s different now because someone can come to my office and we can have a deep talk and the next day I won’t know his or her name. That didn’t happen in a church setting. So I’m more careful now. But I’m not obsessive. These are my friends. Touch is a human thing, not just a sexual thing. It is dehumanizing to deny touch. Is sex a contagious disease? Sex is a danger, but money is a danger too. Do you refuse to take a salary because money is a danger?

And here’s the question, put forth by Dan Brennan,

Is it possible for cross-sex friendships to flourish in our church communities with more constructive meanings than the appearance of sexual immorality? You see if we are training church leaders with a socially constructed meaning of men and women with taken-for-granted conventional assumptions, I would argue that we may not be pursuing social justice at a fundamental relational level in our communities.

My answer is yes. Where, you ask? Well, that’s a tougher question. 1 qualifer: not everyone can do this.