Photo by Dean Hochman

By Diana Kim

Though it only began a few weeks ago, the chaos amidst COVID-19 seems to have lasted much longer. While news of the virus spreading overseas was known, it didn’t become a reality for us until we witnessed our neighbors massively buying water and toilet paper, as if they were preparing for the apocalypse. Watching others in this pursuit, we joined in on the hoarding, leaving shelves at grocery stores and pharmacies empty, desolate. It wasn’t enough for us to have the necessary supplies; we demanded more. In our demand for more toilet paper, we yelled at grocery store employees, fought with other customers, and took away resources from those desperate just so we could feel a sense of peace during a confusing time. 

Do we acknowledge those who are putting their lives on the line during this time – not just the doctors and nurses in the hospitals (of course their work is crucial) — but also those working the “essential” jobs, those working in grocery stores, who are constantly making themselves vulnerable to exposure so that the rest of us might have the supplies we need? These employees are in the crossfire between the healthy and the sick, between the toilet paper and those who are in need of the toilet paper.

Various cities and states have called for some version of a lockdown; in Los Angeles we are under a “Safer at Home” order, during which we isolate ourselves – to the best of our ability — and practice safe social distancing to prevent more spreading of the virus. We have isolated ourselves. Now we are alone with all the supplies we have hoarded at the beginning of this chaos. But do the supplies we fought so hard to get bring us any sense of comfort? In isolation, do we find comfort and delight in having a mountain of toilet paper or do we seek comfort and delight in something — someone — greater? A man in Tennessee had stockpiled resources such as hand sanitizer and wipes, essential during this chaos, with hopes of profiting off of them by selling them at ridiculously marked-up prices. While I cannot speak about any remorse he felt about taking advantage of the situation, I can say that his reputation was tarnished. The goods we hoard can only provide so much comfort. During these confusing times, it won’t be hand sanitizer or Charmin toilet paper that gives us a sense of peace; it won’t be our knowing that we have a stockpile of hand sanitizer that gives us a sense of calm. We cannot delight in these goods.

Why have we hoarded these goods and left grocery stores as vacant wastelands? We seek these goods because that is one aspect of our lives we can control- what we seek then is control during a time of confusion, a time when we don’t know who is safe or who is ill, a time when we don’t know when all of this will end. But control can only get us so far, and control will give us only a small sense of peace. What we need then is to find delight. Instead of worrying about what we don’t have, why not spend the time being thankful for what we do have? Instead of worrying about the unknown and seeking control, why not take delight in what we are certain of?

In my own roller coaster of thoughts and emotions during this ongoing pandemic, I realize that what is necessary is not my obsession with the materials that I want to hoard, but my delight and knowing that in the midst of confusion there is still hope. I am taking delight in those who sacrifice to provide for the rest of us: the doctors who are treating patients with the virus, the store clerks who provide us with the goods we need, the restaurant workers who provide food, etc. At the end of the day, there is no genuine charm in Charmin, but there is delight in knowing that there are those who work diligently for the greater community.

Diana Kim is a pastor of a local Korean church in Torrance, CA. Her primary goals in serving are to teach and equip the next generation to be passionate for Jesus and to live out His passion and care for the world. Diana is currently a PhD student at Fuller Theological Seminary and is majoring in Christian Ethics. Her current research area of interest is Asian American feminist ethics.

Photo by Make 65

By Wendy Choy-Chan

There is a Chinese saying that one greets the clothing of another person before one greets the person, meaning what we wear represents who we are. Another one says the clothes on a man is as important as the gold on a buddha’s statue.

When I was an engineering student in college, sweatpants and a baseball cap were the go-to outfit, especially after a late night’s work. Also, a morning shower was not as important as the extra 30 minutes of sleep I would get if I were to go without. According to the Chinese proverbs, I wouldn’t consider myself “charming” as I did not pay any attention to how I dressed or how I looked.

To be honest, I have very little fashion sense, not knowing how to match my outfits and having no interest in shopping for clothes. I don’t put on make-up and my facial routine consists of only a cleanser and facial moisturizer. (I am not against dressing up and make-up; it’s just that these things don’t appeal to me and I am bad at it.)

When I started preaching and teaching, I struggled with what to wear for these occasions. If I could, I would preach in my jeans, but out of respect (especially for Chinese churches), I went out to buy dress pants and nice tops and dress shoes. Someone had suggested to me that I should wear a suit to look more “professional.” I wondered what “professional” meant, and how would that help my preaching?

My struggle ended, interestingly, when I was invited to teach at a place but someone there was opposed because I was not a man, I was not Caucasian, and I did not hold a doctorate degree. My struggle ended because I realized that I could only do so much to my outer appearance if my goal was to “charm” others to see me as someone I was not. I could not dress myself to be a male caucasian PhD. I was so upset that I purposely dressed down a little bit when I taught that time, but the teaching went well.

The person who opposed my speaking engagement actually said to me right after class that my teaching was powerful and effective. His remarks reminded me of another struggle I had before. I am a person of simple mind and simple words, and I had once admired those who could articulate difficult theological concepts, using long and hard-to-pronounce theological terms. And then, I realized there are really two groups of these people: one group is naturally charming (or that they are charming because they are natural) while the other I could just tell they are dressing up their speech with fancy words to act like the first group.

Charm is in the being, not the doing. People are charming, whether wearing jeans or wearing suits — if that’s who they are. People are charming, whether they say “Pauline corpus” or “the letters that Paul wrote” — if that’s who they are.

Instead of doing something to become someone charming, my being will drive my doing, and that is the real charm!

Wendy Choy-Chan came to North America from Hong Kong when she was 15. After graduating with a MScE, she worked as a telecommunications engineer for a few years before becoming a full-time mom. She earned her MA in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2016, and is now serving with Becoming What God Intended Ministries. Despite living in the coffee capital (Seattle), Wendy enjoys scouting out tea shops with her husband and two daughters.

Photo by Theo Crazzolara

By Tina Teng-Henson

We have often wondered, is this the way life should be? The way life should feel?

At the end of my life, my husband John would be the one I’d want to tell our story. He’s been the primary witness to it all, the main observer, my key partner.  He’d remember exactly why one chapter would end and how the next one would begin. Continue Reading »

Photo by Frédérique Voisin-Demery

By Liz Chang

For starters, my mind first goes to the fact that we all long for connection. We crave a sense of belonging, to be loved and accepted for who we are. When we feel accepted and loved, our fears of inadequacy and unlovability dissipate. And what a pleasure it is to make a new friend—to get along with someone and to feel a connection with them. Continue Reading »

Photo by Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida

By Joy Wong

Gender stereotypes pertaining to women have often been upsetting to me, especially in the ways that I did not fit into them. I distinctly remember a time when a male elder in our church said something to the effect that “all women were talkative and gossipy” and I was highly offended — especially because I myself am quite the opposite. In fact, most of our friends know that my husband is the more talkative one, and more interested in gossip too! In jest, I often dub him as a “gossip boy,” my spin on the coined term “gossip girl.” Continue Reading »

Photo by Travis Simon

By Emi Iwanaga

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. –Luke 2:7

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne…And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God. –Revelation 5:6-7,16 Continue Reading »

Photo by Giuseppe Milo

By Jerrica KF Ching

I view gender as an aspect of one’s culture and one’s self-identity. Gender is multi-faceted, and comes complete with biases, prejudices, and everything in between. In an article by Tinkler, Zhao, Li, and Ridgeway (2019), social invisibility is described as certain behaviors that are generally less seen, heard, or recalled. Social invisibility can work in both positive and negative ways; those who are viewed as socially invisible may not face criticism from others, but they also may not be noticed for helpful contributions.

Additionally, the authors go on to propose that for Asian Americans, both men and women are stereotyped as more feminine and nonaggressive compared to White men and women. Continue Reading »

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