Navigating Artfully

Photo by David Masters

Photo by David Masters

By Debbie Gin

My husband and I have a system worked out when we travel:  he drives while I navigate.  It’s worked well for us, as I love looking at maps and we both love exploring.  Mind you, I navigate the real way, not by turning on my phone’s voice-with-the-bad-British-accent, but by figuring out where we are and where we want to end up on the phone’s map and instructing my husband to turn left, right, or around.

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we switched roles.  I drove while my husband navigated, and for various reasons, we encountered many obstacles and endured much internal (and external!) angst.  Many times, we ended up on the wrong road, only to be forced onto a several-mile stretch with no way to turn around from our mistake.

When we got to our destination (and we were once again in a space to reflect without getting irritated), I realized a few things about the art of navigation.  First, skillful navigation relies on the constant back-and-forth rhythm of expanding out and focusing in.  Big picture and local context.  Second, one of the most important things navigation can provide is anticipation, alerting the driver in advance when a turn is needed or how far ahead to expect an exit.  The last observation I made was that when navigating unexplored terrain, you seldom get to see the actual terrain.  Because so much is depending on careful navigation — particularly when you are low on fuel and can’t afford too many wrong turns — the one who determines the route rarely gets to look up and see the beautiful landscape to which she has led the company of travelers.  However, because she has navigated the group by careful map study rather than by relying on predetermined voice-navigation, new and interesting — and even more efficient — paths can be experienced.

Navigating professional contexts is similar.  Developing professionally and living into one’s vocation requires spending time in big-picture spaces, as well as spaces that are particular to local context.  Having occupied most of my life in details, I am learning to observe and think more broadly by watching others in top leadership positions do this.  I am also practicing the art of anticipation, learning to predict the consequences of my decisions, on many levels.

Finally, I am now realizing that many beautiful moments have come and gone unnoticed and unexperienced by me, a woman of color.  In the kinds of navigation that have been required of me, by necessity, I have had to keep my nose to the grindstone and forge ahead.  Women in male-dominated contexts and persons of color in White-dominated contexts engage in an inordinate amount of navigating such contexts:  an Asian woman figuring out the best non-Asian church in which to intern for ordination, learning leadership styles that don’t quite fit Asian women’s ways of being, translating “standard” curricula for Asian American settings, etc.

While I absolutely believe that changing systems to normalize Asian ways of being or women’s ways of being is the responsibility of those in dominant communities, I also believe that those in non-dominant communities can claim our own agency as well.  I implored faculty of color at a recent ATS midcareer faculty event to do just that, especially by intentionally mentoring junior faculty of color, thereby strengthening the diversity of the pipelines that will feed future seminary deanships and presidencies.  We can — and must — lift our heads to take in the scenery, the beauty…even as we skillfully navigate difficult terrain.

Dr. Debbie Gin is Director of Faculty Development and Research of The Association of Theological Schools.  She and her husband currently live in Pennsylvania.

Photo by Frank de Kleine

Photo by Frank de Kleine

By Joy Wong

In the last few months, our family has been going through a lot of transition, including buying our first home and moving while expecting our next baby, due in July. On top of all this, I’m still finishing up my spiritual direction certification, continuing  – albeit, very slowly – in the ordination process, and staying home to care for my daughter who is now close to the age of 2. Continue Reading »

Photo by Clara Hinton

Photo by Clara Hinton

By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

For our household, 2015 was supposed to be the year of the family.

After nearly a decade of unpredictable adventures in Silicon Valley and abroad— mostly thanks to my husband’s social enterprise startup — we were finally ready to settle down. Continue Reading »

This is My Prayer

Photo by Neal Fowler

Photo by Neal Fowler

By Jerrica Ching

As an intern therapist I have had the privilege for sitting with clients for the past 9 months, hearing stories of pain, perseverance, hardship, and resilience.  As my time as an intern draws to a close as I prepare for graduation, I have sometimes found myself fixated on immediately proposing a solution to a problem.  This is in stark contrast to my firm belief that it is not a therapist’s job to fix anyone who sits in that room with us.  I feel that a therapist’s duty is to walk with a client through a journey of self-discovery, but I as a therapist am not meant to magically cure a person of all trials and tribulations.  I also found myself very frustrated when a client told me that what I had recommended did not work, or that the client did not want to do anything that I suggested. Continue Reading »

Mabuni, Life's DisruptionsBy Vivian Mabuni

Yesterday? Horribly unproductive. Today, I purposed, would be better. After crawling out of bed and dropping off my son at school, I came home at 6:50 am and made my “most mornings” breakfast: Coaches oatmeal, brown sugar, Trader Joe’s Omega Trail mix and some milk. Continue Reading »

Photo by r. nial bradshaw

Photo by r. nial bradshaw

By Melanie Mar Chow

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

Thanks to social media, after being “sprung forward” into March 8, 2015, I was quickly notified that it was going to be a day of shout-outs for women, as it was International Women’s Day.  From Facebook posts about Wonder Woman to friends simply honoring their mothers and grandmothers’ lives was a reminder of the importance of expressing gratitude for women across the planet…and yet the number of posts seemed small from my vantage point. Continue Reading »

Getting Wisdom

Photo by tinyfroglet

Photo by tinyfroglet

By Diana Gee

Wisdom cries out in the street;
                        in the squares she raises her voice.
            At the busiest corner she cries out;
                        at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
            “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
            How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
                        and fools hate knowledge? 
                                                                 —Proverbs 1:20-22 (NRSV)

Ignorance is bliss, so they say. Watching the news while eating dinner can leave one feeling disgusted and nauseous. War, destruction, violence, hunger, fear… the list goes on. There are some things that I’d rather not know, some things that I’d rather not deal with. Continue Reading »


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