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When Awkwardness isn't the Other Person's Fault

"The first thought I have about him is that he's awkward." I was talking to a single, female friend who made the above statement when I mentioned a single guy in our social circle. It led to an extended discussion about what exactly makes a guy awkward. Awkwardness seems to be the kiss of death when it comes to male attractiveness. Worse than the dreaded "he seems like a nice guy". But awkwardness is notoriously hard to pin down. Often, we can perceive someone as awkward when they don't respond as enthusiastically as we hope. Or they lapse into a silence that goes on longer than we sense appropriate. Or they may give terse responses. Or not make eye contact. Or make overly intense eye contact. Or fire questions off like an interrogation. Or we may simply experience a vague sense of discomfort when we're around them. One thing my friend and I determined about awkward people is that there's a temptation to do more of the conversational "heavy lift
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The Hardest Question

The hardest question for a pastor and especially a church planter, to answer is: How is your church going? It is a common question. It is akin to: How are you doing? It is also a loaded question. There are so many ways to answer and so many layers depending on the interest level of the listener, the social context you’re in, and if you had an oversized burrito for lunch. If it's a dinner party with a litigation attorney you just met, a brief one-sentence response can suffice. If it's in front of a fire pit with a good friend over whiskey, a more in-depth explanation is appropriate. The most challenging context to answer this question is around other pastors and church planters. Most pastors are polite to recognize the implications of the question. We tend to recognize the insecurities that drift around this line of inquiry. Since there aren't that many vocational ministers running around, comparison is inevitable. The biggest fear is the dreaded: "How many people atte

The Gift of Narcissism

  Please don't take this poem the wrong way But narcissism is a gift when you're a leader A scoop of self-consuming tendencies  Can take your organization to the next level No more worrying about what other people think No need to listen to and receive feedback No more second-guessing yourself Every decision you make is right and good You'll sleep well at night knowing  It's always someone else's fault and never yours No more anxiety about the future or the past Because you own tomorrow as well as yesterday and today Rules and regulations are for other people Never forget that you’re the exception If you break a rule that might be meant for you You can always pretend you didn’t know Willful ignorance and good intentions Can justify any of your actions You’re the hammer; everyone else is a nail Build that wall and pound away What’s good for you is good for everyone else That’s the core belief of a self-focused person Never deviate from that narrative It makes the wor

When Everything is too Great and Marvelous

Psalm 131 1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;  I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. I recently preached a sermon from Psalms 131. It was a scary message to preach because my personality and temperament are diametrically opposed to calm, quiet, and not occupying myself with great and marvelous thoughts. I love noise, chaos, and thinking deep and philosophical thoughts. I seldom think a thought is too great and marvelous for me. In light of these barriers, I spent most of the sermon highlighting all the obstacles we face in calming and quieting ourselves with God. I talked about not getting a good night's rest. I talked about tossing and turning endlessly to find the perfect sleeping position. I confessed how, in the wee hours of

Confronting the Snake: How Jordan Peterson Preaches the Gospel

  [2000 words, 14 minute read] I recently attended a Jordan B. Peterson speaking event at the San Jose Civic. The event was part of a book tour promoting his latest work, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. The auditorium was almost completely full, the audience about 85% male, and I spotted only a smattering of Asian Americans. About halfway through his lecture, I realize this an elaborate 75-minute gospel presentation. Gospel as in not only just Peterson’s soapbox but the good news of Jesus Christ. It was gorgeous and awe-inspiring. Although I'm a pastor, I tire of most gospel presentations including my own. They're like sub-par romantic comedies: formulaic, emotionally manipulative, boring, and trying to be funny but falling woefully short. Worst of all, there's no subtlety; they hit you over the head with a trite message over and over. There's pressure in evangelical culture to present the gospel like a bad romantic comedy. It has to follow the formula. There’s a

How I teach my kids about money

Money has a mystical quality. In ages past (aka 10 years ago), people carried around paper currency. New, crisp bills had a sacred aura. The stamped sheets of green had a fresh aroma like a new car. And then there were metallic circles called coins. I remember my parents used to collect pennies in rolls. I haven't seen a roll of pennies in years and I'm certain it functions better as a paperweight.  Technology has worked to make money invisible and touchless. It's no longer a physical transaction. We pay our credit cards online and shift them out of our attention through auto-pay. We set up recurring donations to our local church or charity. Taxes, healthcare premiums, and 401(k) contributions are automatically deducted from our paychecks and the remainder is directly deposited to our bank accounts. Even as money has become less visible, it's also become more visible in strange and magical ways. Every now and then, I scroll through my Venmo public transaction feed and g

Why I invest in stocks

Our church started a sermon series about money. Money has all kinds of contradictions for Christians. For instance, I believe: I am a citizen of an invisible nation and worship an unseen king Nothing I've received truly belongs to me There is an afterlife and my choices matter into eternity Money presents supernatural temptations Generosity is the way the power of money is subverted On the other hand, I contend with these earthly realities: I grew up in the Silicon Valley as the child of Chinese immigrants who worked their "dream jobs" at IBM and Apple through the 1970s and 1980s. My parents emphasized saving money (the "Asian conscience" ), and like many of their Silicon Valley peers, accumulated significant wealth from their stock and real estate investments I want to provide for my wife and my future needs as well as provide for my children and contribute to my kids' costs of higher education I worked in tech and am well-educated, competitive, and enjoy