Wo-manning up

One of my favorite pastors is Mark Driscoll, an evangelical Christian pastor from Seattle. He and his wife Grace recently published a book called Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, which was received with a firestorm of praise and controversy due to his frank discussion of sex and boldly-stated complementarian views.

In the book and in his preaching, Driscoll does not hesitate to call men, particularly husbands, to a high standard of living. He uses Scripture to challenge them to live out of deep humility and repentance, ensure provision for their families, and love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loved the church.

It’s easy for fangirls like me to hear Driscoll’s preaching and cheer, Yes! This is what the men in the church need to hear. This is how men should act. But it’s much harder to recognize that the challenges he gives to men also apply to us.

I’m a girl, so I don’t have quite the same responsibilities as the men Driscoll calls out. But the challenges and responsibilities of women are of equal weight. We still need to live out of deep humility and repentance, care for our families, and love our (future?) husbands sacrificially.

It’s much easier for us to get angry alongside Driscoll, shaking my fist at those people — men — and rave about how they are not stepping up and need to get their game faces on. But we can’t call men out on the specks in their eyes without first looking at the planks in ours.

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My dream

One of my favorite bloggers is my friend and Bay Area photographer Yasmin Sarai. She is an incredibly talented budding photographer and Santa Clara alum whom I admire for many reasons. You should click on her name and check out her blog. 😉

Yesterday, she posted a piece entitled “Go Hard” [click here to read], where she challenges her readers not to back down in pursuit of a far-off and intimidating dream or goal:

I have to learn, even if it is at a painstakingly slow-pace.  Piece by piece, I will build knowledge and gain experience, because there is no short-cut to excellence.

At the end of the post, she asked her readers what their big dream was, and what small steps they were taking to achieve it.

I knew immediately what mine was. Want to know? Are you ready for this? It’s silly. I’m a little embarrassed, to tell you the truth.

Well… here goes.

My dream is to be a mom.

Yeah, weird, I know. Most women wants to be moms. But few publicize it as one of their biggest dreams they’ve ever had, at least from my experience.

But for most of my life, motherhood has been my dream. I always tell people that even when I was a kid, I wanted kids. It’s true. Back then, I didn’t know the hard work it took to be a mother (and still don’t know the half of it). I saw motherhood through rose-colored glasses: cooing, giggling, baby powder, cuddles, and joy. I didn’t know the nitty gritty of a mom’s life; my parents’ humility kept me from seeing the endless hard work they toiled through for my siblings and me.

Now, with a little age on my side and a smidge more perspective, I can say that parenthood is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I also know, with all my heart, that I still want it… someday.

But where does that dream fit into Yasmin’s challenge?

  • I can take every opportunity to grow in patience.
  • I can strive to humbly serve my family members and roommates.
  • I can learn to eat healthy foods (to model proper eating habits for my future kiddos, of course!).
  • I can exercise and take care of my body so that I am well-equipped for the physical trials of life.
  • I can steward my finances well.
  • I can work with kids every opportunity I get — volunteering, babysitting, you name it — to get practice.
  • I can learn from mentors who’ve been there — my mom, my dad, my grandparents.
  • I can spend time with God daily, reading the Bible and praying, to grow spiritually.

I think I’ll give it a try.

Gifted and talented

“Chances are, if you’re a successful professional today, you were a pretty bright fifth-grader.”

I just read a really interesting article from the Harvard Business Review called “The Trouble with Bright Kids.” The article concludes, based on a few recent studies, that bright children praised for their brightness may be set up for a different kind of struggle — the struggle to motivate themselves to work hard at things that aren’t easy.

Read below for the best excerpt:

The kind of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children has a major impact on the implicit beliefs we develop about our abilities — including whether we see them as innate and unchangeable, or as capable of developing through effort and practice. When we do well in school and are told that we are “so smart,” “so clever,” or “such a good student,” this kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don’t. The net result: when learning something new is truly difficult, smart-praise kids take it as sign that they aren’t “good” and “smart,” rather than as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

Incidentally, this is particularly true for women. As young girls, they learn to self-regulate (i.e., sit still and pay attention) more quickly than boys. Consequently they are more likely to be praised for “being good,” and more likely to infer that “goodness” and “smartness” are innate qualities. In a study Dweck conducted in the 1980′s, for instance, she found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up compared to bright boys — and the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.

We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because bright kids are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be adults who are far too hard on themselves — adults who will prematurely conclude that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

Everything in this article resonated with me.

Back in elementary school I was considered a “gifted” child, and naturally I made my way through a number of honors and AP classes in middle school and high school. I especially loved English and Spanish, where I consistently ranked near the top of the class — with no extraordinary effort required.

However, I shied away from certain subjects: I dropped out of honors mathematics starting in 9th grade; I enrolled in marine biology as my third science course, instead of Bio 2AP or Chem 2AP; I dreaded P.E. and abhorred art classes since I couldn’t run fast or paint well. All of these subjects I could do. I wasn’t incapable; they just didn’t come easily to me. As a result, I believed myself to be not exceptional in any of these areas– and if that’s the case, then why go for the tougher honors classes?

I don’t think it was wrong for me to favor the subjects in which I enjoyed myself the most and excelled the greatest. But in part, my decision was motivated by the fact that these disliked subjects didn’t come naturally to me, and I wanted to work at things at which I knew I could excel. I know this is true because I loved Algebra II and marine biology, two math/science classes in which I did exceptionally well. They came easily to me.

Hmm… so what should I do now? Enroll in an art class (because I’ve always wished I could draw well, but never tried because I’m not artistically gifted)? Go for a run? 😉

Seeking God’s will

I’m often tempted to wait, to sit, patiently, motionlessly, waiting for God to give me direction. It’s usually when I have to make a big decision that I’m really afraid of, or in a moment where I’m particularly aware (and intimidated by) my own shortcomings. It’s really tempting to sit back and just say I’m “waiting on God’s will.”

But passivity and inactivity not the same as seeking God’s will for your life.

God calls us to be active, purposeful— yes, patient, waiting, relying on His leading at all times, but active.

Consider these “four debilitating traps,” written by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot, that happen to Christians who are trying to seek God’s will on an important decision but become debilitated, afraid that they’ll make the wrong choice:

  1. Justifying an unwise decision on the ground that “God told me to do it.”
  2. Fostering costly delays in the process because of uncertainty about God’s will.
  3. The practice of “putting out a fleece” — allowing circumstances to dictate the decision.
  4. Rejecting personal preferences when faced with apparently equal options.

The counterpoints to these four traps (as far as I can see):

  1. Take ownership of your decisions. If you make the wrong ones, there’s grace.
  2. Matthew 28:19. Jesus told his apostles to GO and make disciples of all nations. He didn’t say, “Wait until I place a strong burden on your heart for a particular lost soul.” He said go! In the same way, try. Give it a shot. Pray, try what you think is God’s will (in accordance with scripture). See what happens.
  3. Deuteronomy 6:16. Circumstances don’t always indicate God’s leading. Sometimes “doors close,” but we still have to pursue that path. Sometimes doors open that we shouldn’t go through.
  4. Psalm 37:4. Personal preferences matter! God gave us those for a reason. Take them seriously. Sometimes that means that you pick the option that you like best.

Why can we be active, instead of wait for a Pauline lightning bolt from heaven to come down and clarify our entire life path?

Psalm 37:5
“Commit your way to the LORD;
    trust in him, and he will act.”

Commit your decisions, your life, to Christ. He asks nothing less of you. But make that commitment, and you’re His. You’re safe there.

White guilt

Apologies in advance for the simplistic nature of this post.

I learned a lot in grade school history class. Unfortunately, many lessons surrounded (accurate yet) horrible incidents of slavery, exploitation, racism, and oppression.

A few of my memories (apologies for any inaccuracies):

  • European entrance to North America: many native peoples were oppressed and/or killed off.
  • American slavery and slave trade: Africans were collected from other places on the globe and forced into slavery by and for Americans.
  • Civil War: United States North and South territories warred against each other largely over the issue of slavery. Southern plantation owners wanted to keep the practice legal.
  • Holocaust: Hitler killed six millions Jews.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: African-American civil rights activist who was assassinated during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

Many of these incidents involved a “white” person/”white” group oppressing a minority ethnic group.

I remember noticing this when I was young and developing a sudden, overwhelming shame for my unavoidable whiteness. My mix of European ethnicities made me able to relate to any of the oppressor groups, leading me to feel a heavy weight of responsibility for the sins of my ancestors.

It didn’t help when we visited the Museum of Tolerance in seventh grade, and my mother, a volunteer chaperone, informed me that I was one-part German. I remember suddenly feeling huge regret for what “my people” had done to Jewish people during World War II. I know; it doesn’t make sense logically. But I remember vividly the pain and guilt that overcame me.

It sounds ridiculous, I know. But to this day, I can’t read an article about an impoverished minority community without feeling a twinge of guilt for having the “standard” race– the statistically wealthier race, the more secure race, the more socially acceptable race. I can’t hear about a racist incident at Santa Clara without feeling guilty for being in the majority ethnic group that was so insensitive. I feel guilty by association.

Is it just me? Has anyone else ever felt guilty for being “white”?

Rich and poor

How rich are you?

This is the question posed by the Global Rich List, a site I stumbled upon today while glancing at a friend’s Facebook page. The site requires you to enter your annual income (in British pounds, US dollars, Canadian dollars, Chinese yen, or euro) to see where you rank in comparison to people across the globe.

According to them, I’m the 1,057,270,585 richest person in the world, placing me at the top 17.62% in the world.

IN THE WORLD.

That’s me, a “poor” college student who works one job and occasionally babysits. That’s just my personal income… not much more than enough to spend a little, give a little, save a little. I float on top of a lot more wealth due to the fact that I’m still a dependent (thank you, Mom & Dad).

For perspective:

$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.

Another link to consider: Slavery Footprint