Su Beng: The Revolutionist

Friday, September 20, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

On June 26, 2016, a political commentator (my uncle), a university professor (my other uncle), and a deeply insignificant 19-year-old (me) shuffled into an apartment building in Xinzhuang, Taiwan to interview Su Beng for a nascent book of poetry about Taiwanese American identity.

Small details swell with grand, wistful nostalgia. The trees in front of his building, by then iconic from how often they'd been the backdrop of frenzied, polarizing reporting. The portrait of Che Guevara, to whom he is often compared.


This meeting was the honor of my life. This man was the polaris of over three generations of Taiwanese people; his book, Taiwan's 400 Year History, and its English translation, a bible of sorts. It was the first time the history of Taiwan had been written as an anti-colonial source of truth; not as collateral gains from strategic or imperialist conquest, but as a country with a story of its own.
The rallying call of his works resounds: 自己的歷史自己寫. This is the foundational expectation of all of Taiwan's modern revolutions, from the Sunflower Movement to the "Write in 'Taiwanese'" campaign: collective responsibility and accountability. Agency. Authority, not just power. Toni Morrison, another loss in 2019, commands us to write the stories we cannot find. Su Beng's imperative: to overwrite the histories falsely told of us. From both, we glean our purpose: to make something of what we've witnessed.

Su Beng's death is a staggering loss to all who identify as Taiwanese. May we do right by him.

Learn more about Su Beng:
A Life for an Island: The Life of Su Beng

LC

Sunday School: Vol. 5

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fremont, CA

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
E P H E S I A N S  2 : 1 0

My mom told me recently that if I worked as hard on my attitude as I did on my career or academics, my ability to serve and uplift others would look a lot different. It's not something you necessarily have to change, she allowed, but it's something you should if you can.

I know I've practiced a lesser variant of love my entire life: the sort that, devoid of grace, casts judgment rather than seeks to serve. My brand of "unconditional" love said, I don't think you deserve this, but here you go. Truly unconditional love, I've learned, insists, it was never a question of worthiness; this simply belongs to you.

It's not an easy understanding to sustain, and separating merit from mercy will be a cross I'll bear forever. I want to be seen through my works so that I can judge others for theirs. I want the syllabus that outlines, do this to earn that, even if there are days where I literally hate myself for not achieving what is ultimately meaningless: a completed to-do list, an app-generated workout sequence, a set of KPIs. I denounce hustle porn only to breathlessly pursue its rebranded version: biohacking the human spirit, increased productivity marketed as wellness. Meritocracy is a fantasy, I wrote in college, but I'll look for it in every institution, every relationship, every opportunity. I've looked for it, it seems, even in my faith. These Sunday School posts have only regurgitated the same misled paradigm: sincerity measured by output, salvation granted by effort.

I want to tell God, I am a hard worker. I struggle to grasp that this simply isn't enough -- and what's more, in its absolute insufficiency it is no longer demanded of me. By His stripes, the scripture says. What I need to understand: and not your works. 

There's a quote I keep coming back to that suggests our surrender to God's will allows us to see His will in everything; the secular interpretation of this is mere coincidence. Either way, I finally see things fitting together. I've spent the last few weeks trying to understand grace before contemplating its place in my own life, my own desire for transformation. Along the way, unprompted and seemingly randomly, the people in my life have challenged me to amplify my impact. You can't change an environment you refuse to be in, they'll say. Or my mom, explicitly: any goodwill you might have gets lost in how judgmental you tend to be. There was connective tissue in all this, you see: because I could not understand the unearned, unmerited grace of God, I refused to grant it to others. Where grace is missing, condemnation asserts itself as a gatekeeper. No truth or conviction would compel other towards this barren, awful place. And here I was, punishing others for feeling unwelcome in the hostility I'd created.

I earnestly regret every moment (and there have been many) that I've criticized at the periphery rather than volunteered to help, thinking myself invested enough to know better but above the actual work. But only grace makes way for the twin pillars of justice and restoration; and only through understanding grace can I fully practice it.
My calling remains: not simply to have faith in the unseen, but to sustain a desire for what cannot be worked for or deserved. Below, how I'm preparing myself to do right and do better:


Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness | Jennifer Berry Hawes
On June 17, 2015, twelve members of the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina welcomed a young white man to their evening Bible study. He arrived with a pistol, 88 bullets, and hopes of starting a race war. Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine innocents during their closing prayer horrified the nation. Two days later, some relatives of the dead stood at Roof’s hearing and said, “I forgive you.” That grace offered the country a hopeful ending to an awful story. But for the survivors and victims’ families, the journey had just begun.
In Grace Will Lead Us Home, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes provides a definitive account of the tragedy’s aftermath. With unprecedented access to the grieving families and other key figures, Hawes offers a nuanced and moving portrait of the events and emotions that emerged in the massacre’s wake.
The two adult survivors of the shooting begin to make sense of their lives again. Rifts form between some of the victims’ families and the church. A group of relatives fights to end gun violence, capturing the attention of President Obama. And a city in the Deep South must confront its racist past. This is the story of how, beyond the headlines, a community of people begins to heal.
Related, Obama's eulogy for state Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine victims in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.


And finally, the sermons of the week:
Transformation Church: Grace Like a Flood (Part 5) - Why Water Baptism

Transformation Church: Grace Like a Flood (Part 6) - Only God Can Judge Me (Works After Grace)

Transformation Church: Grace Like a Flood (Part 7) - Grace for Them? (The Power of Grace & Truth)

Transformation Church: Grace Like a Flood (Part 8) - Grace for the Faithful 

Much love,
LC

What LC Read: Vol. 20 (Masculinity, Race, Private School Drama, & More)

Monday, September 9, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA


Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver | Mary Oliver
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver presents a personal selection of her best work in this definitive collection spanning more than five decades of her esteemed literary career.
Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as "far and away, this country's best selling poet" by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years.
Carefully curated, these 200 plus poems feature Oliver's work from her very first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published in 1963 at the age of 28, through her most recent collection, Felicity, published in 2015. This timeless volume, arranged by Oliver herself, showcases the beloved poet at her edifying best. Within these pages, she provides us with an extraordinary and invaluable collection of her passionate, perceptive, and much-treasured observations of the natural world.


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous | Ocean Vuong
Poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.


The Flatshare | Beth O'Leary
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window


The Gifted School | Bruce Holsinger
Smart and juicy, a compulsively readable novel about a previously happy group of friends and parents that is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in the community
This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege. Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who've been a part of one another's lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group's children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It's a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.


Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland | Jonathan M. Metzl 
In the era of Donald Trump, many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.
Physician Jonathan M. Metzl's quest to understand the health implications of "backlash governance" leads him across America's heartland. Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled progun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies' costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise.


The Screwtape Letters | C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters by C.S.  Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below." At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.


21 Lessons for the 21st Century | Yuval Noah Harari
How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?
Yuval Noah Harari's 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a probing and visionary investigation into today's most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.



If Beale Street Could Talk | James Baldwin
In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin's story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions — affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

Sunday School: Vol. 4

Sunday, September 8, 2019

New York, NY, USA

As usual, I'm hesitating here between divulging all my angsty personal secrets and choosing radical honesty. I hope it's clear I'm not trying to be prescriptive or smug; I spent twenty-two years in a Christian household (doing vacation bible school, dinnertime devos, all that) and very little stuck with me until year twenty-three. If there's a lesson in that, it might be to trust in divine timing, or to be grateful that my parents believed free will was a prerequisite to real faith. But obsession with and devotion to self-improvement are on-brand for me, so I hope you understand my sudden enthusiasm for sharing Sunday School posts.

Everything that changes me fascinates me (boys, books, and now the Bible, I guess), so I'm not writing these to evangelize, only to testify: I wanted to grow, and this is how I am.

My challenge for the week was to devote 75-90 minutes daily to a sermon and reflection (my current proxy for attending an actual Sunday service). What I'm finding isn't exactly a deeper understanding of precise theology, but an irresistible invitation for radical love and inclusion. Searching for my own gospel grounds my faith beyond blind belief. This is probably the circumstantial Methodist in me, but I want to know Christ as praxis, not Christianity as an organized or institutional religion.

I'm sharing below key takeaways and suggestions for reflection from each sermon this week. If any part of this resonates with you (though I don't at all mind if it doesn't) I really do recommend taking time for reflection and a bit of writing to help clarify your thoughts. Beyond all the empirical evidence in favor of personal journaling, I've found this to be one of my most powerful techniques for processing and analyzing new information.

Final thoughts: Most of the people in my circle are those who've pursued self-improvement with the same relentlessness, vigor, obsessiveness. I don't care if they find it in a church, or in a fitness routine, or in their career (knowing them, likely a combination of these and more). What I do adore about them is their bias towards action, their existential fear of inertia, their sustained passion for a full, satisfying life. I don't know many who've elected to settle for what they'd been born with or given. The glow up is excruciating, I know, and extraordinary. I'm so proud of us.


M O N D A Y / 2  S E P T E M B E R
Key takeaways: 
  • How we love is learned, and how we learn is how we last
  • God's grace is greater than the weaknesses of all the people in our lives, no matter how much we love them (or don't); only He can redeem and relieve us from the damage of imperfect relationships
  • All the ways people fail us can serve to illuminate the ways He will not
My suggestions for reflection:
  • Given that we don't choose the circumstances we are born into, how can we think about our birthright (or perceived lack thereof) as an opportunity? 
  • What are the ways we become, or find in others, what we're missing? 
  • What are the generational curses that absolutely end with us? How will we protect our descendants? 



T U E S D A Y / 3  S E P T E M B E R
Key takeaways: 
  • Identification is the prerequisite to transformation
  • Without intervention, we inherit the bad habits, hobbies, and hatred of our ancestors; the sins of the father are the sins of the son - not because God holds generational grudges, but because we are products of our circumstances
  • What our parents and grandparents never reconciled within themselves affect how they raise us; this is often the root of the trauma we bring to other relationships
  • When we don't recognize and amend incorrect behavior, we normalize and preserve it. There is no running from something that has manifested within you
  • God wants more for you; He will provide all that you need but were not born with
My suggestions for reflection: 
  • How do challenging relationships with our family members teach us endurance? 
  • Are we obligated to love our relatives? What can this teach us about perfect and imperfect love? Does love require us to stay in unjust, cruel situations? (No, it doesn't! But how can we find the courage to leave?) 



W E D N E S D A Y / 4  S E P T E M B E R
Key takeaways:
  • Grace is the unmerited, undeserved, and unearned kindness and favor of God
  • You can only receive and experience what you believe exists; your perception of Grace informs all that you do (if you believe God to be a vindictive one, your actions reflect a fear of punishment. If you believe Him to be a loving one, your actions reflect an aspiration to emulate this)
  • You are delivered from your transgressions through faith, not through your own works or good deeds
My suggestions for reflection:
I personally feel like I went through a lot with this series, the most important being a sudden breakthrough on why I've harbored a lot of spiritual doubt. If the premise of God's grace is that it is necessarily undeserved and unmerited, that erodes at a lot of what we like about ourselves: being hard workers and high achievers, being self-made and self-led. As a lifelong gold sticker-chasing, independence-boasting Asian American practically marinated in meritocratic idealism, the idea of an unconditional, unearned gift seems incomprehensible.
The calling is this: not to have faith in the unseen, but to sustain faith in the undeserved. Can the foundation of unconditional, unmerited grace liberate us from tethering self-worth to productivity and output? Can we allow ourselves the possibility that we are worthy without our work? Is this, then, our imperative to view others with this same uncritical love? How do grace and free will interact?




T H U R S D A Y /  5  S E P T E M B E R
Transformation Church: All Strings Attached (Part 3) - Too Many Friends
Key takeaways: 
  • Friendships are our chosen attachments in life, and we inevitably become the average of our circles
  • To be clear, everyone needs friends around them. It is not good to be alone all the time
  • Everyone around you is not your friends; we habitually invite people into our lives (due to proximity, circumstances, etc.) and allow them to influence us without really knowing who they are or what they stand for
  • The people you might loosely call "friends" might actually fall into three categories: fans, followers, and (real) friends
  • Your real friends know your heart and will hold your integrity accountable; they will fight with you, for you, and against you when necessary 
  • Conversely, we are fans, followers, and friends to the people in our lives, too. Knowing where we stand helps us add value to those relationships
  • Don't ever let somebody who doesn't know you try to inform or influence your identity
My suggestions for reflection: 
To be real, I almost skipped this sermon because literally nobody in this entire world would accuse me of having too many friends. I'm anti-social to the point of concern, and am known to be the absolutely least needy of low maintenance friends. But I guess there was something to unpack in how small I keep my circle, because this ended up being an important lesson, too. Even in my little pool (and your probably bigger one) - are there relationships we need to reassess and redefine? What does loyalty look like if we prioritize each other's integrity and growth over lifelong ties?



F R I D A Y  /  6  S E P T E M B E R
Transformation Church: Grace Like A Flood (Part 2) - I Am Right With God
Key takeaways: 
  • God's grace is undeserved; there is nothing we can do to earn it, and nothing we can do to lose it
  • Perception is the ultimate reality, even if it is not the ultimate truth; your reality dictates your actions
  • Grace is never about our works or our service. God cannot love us any more than He already does; we should act in His example because He loves us, not so that He will
Suggestions for reflection:
  • Are we righteous because we do the right things, or do we do the right things because we are made in righteousness? 
  • What are we trying to measure up to? 
  • Why can't righteous people ever lose God's favor? If unconditional grace is real, what is the incentive for goodness? 



S A T U R D A Y  /  7  S E P T E M B E R
Transformation Church: Grace Like A Flood (Part 3) - I Found My Anchor
Key takeaways: 
  • God is immutable - unchanging in the midst of everything that does change; He is the anchor, greater than the ship and the tides that pull it
  • Grace can only be received; because it is unchanging, it will never lessen or be taken away
  • If we feel secure in this relationship, we feel encouraged to bring our sins to Him so that he might help us fix what went wrong; until we understand this, we will judge ourselves and others for our inevitable failures
  • Jesus is the high priest forever, allowing us direct access to God forever; this is the new covenant God made with us
Suggestions for reflection: 
  • What are the implications of a God willing to create a new, third covenant in order to meet us at the level of our sins? 
  • What things and people do we ask to be our anchors instead of God? 



S U N D A Y  /  8  S E P T E M B E R
Transformation Church: Grace Like A Flood (Part 4) - I am Sav(ed)
Key takeaways: 
  • Salvation is eternal and applies to our past, present, and future; it is not a temporary gift for a temporary state of being
  • The ultimate atonement saved us from the penalty of our past sins, the power of our current sins, and the presence of sin in Heaven
  • If we believe that we have been redeemed, our tests become opportunities for testimony
  • Grace applies to all who believe, regardless of their works or merit
Suggestions for reflection: 
  • How does the concept of unconditional grace challenge our perceptions of goodness? 
  • Why do we want others to measure up in the ways we expect of ourselves? Why does it trouble us that God sees us equal to those who seem to have achieved less? 
  • What does the dissolution of a meritocracy mean to you? 


I am not a worthier Christian today than I was yesterday, or even last year. That's not what unconditional grace requires of us. But I am absolutely a better person. That's what atonement allows in us.

Fiat lux,
LC

Sunday School: Vol. 3

Sunday, September 1, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

Maybe the desire to create something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us. 
M A R Y  O L I V E R


I've finished Transformation Church's series on Relationship Goals! I know the title seems a little corny, but I really, truly believe that pursuing a biblical understanding and paradigm of relationships (platonic, professional, romantic, etc.) has fundamentally changed me for the better in a very short period of time. I'm still trying to find a comfortable balance between not oversharing my personal life and wanting to deliver earnest testimony, but the sequence of these episodes has exactly mirrored the lessons I've needed to learn lately. Like, exactly. This series was so good for/to me. I can't recommend it enough (or literally anything else in this post, I'm absolutely serious when I say that my life is changing and I want you to experience the clarity I've found, too.)

Related, part of the impetus for this "Churchless Christianity" series is that I grew up in Taiwanese churches that mostly served an older congregation. Beyond the slight language barrier, I really struggled to find much that resonated in sermons delivered to those with seemingly well-established faith and entirely different life experiences than mine. Curating my own Sunday School (in addition to being very on-brand for me) allows me to find Christian counsel on what's directly and urgently important to me every week. On that note, I'm renaming these posts to "Sunday School" in an effort to honor the churches that have actually always tried to give me a home, and those that have changed me without us having ever shared a physical space. I also just really love school.





This sermon by Brittany Packnett on why social justice is the will of God, and why discipleship today compels us to liberate first ourselves, then the oppressed, and above all else, our oppressors. That she attended my alma mater (and was in my honorary!) should really be our school's claim to fame. Read more about her here, then please watch/listen to her sermon. "When a pastor looks out," she begins, "he sees a congregation. When activists look out, they see a rally." Yes. It's all that good

She also cites the 1619 Project by The New York Times, a collection of essays about the true American heritage and legacy -- one I hope we would all recognize as a violent and unjust one. While I believe that the deconstruction of these structures is a secular imperative, Christians especially have a biblical calling for the liberation of all. Those who deny, dismiss, and destroy Jesus's example of radical social justice in His name are false prophets (we have one, for example, as president). The true Savior, Packnett argues, would have us sit among and heal the diseased -- not deny them affordable healthcare. He would have us welcome migrants into our homes, not incarcerate their children. The hopelessness we feel is man-made. The work ahead is God's plan for humanity. 
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to re-frame the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

If all your prayers were answered today, would it change the world or just your life?
I'm probably just a simple and not-very-bright girl, but sound bites like this get me. I've always been very frustrated by the "thoughts and prayers" rhetoric, but I realize it's unfair to generalize Christians as apathetic and actionless when those who don't actually do the work are not, in fact, following Christ's example. I know I'm sensitive by nature (and always will be), but the world really has been breaking my heart lately. Between state violence in Hong Kong to migrant detention centers at our own borders and all the hurricanes, mass shootings, and heartaches in between, to the 5+ years that Flint, Michigan has been without clean water, if my faith were a fraction of a degree weaker, I'd feel nothing but despair. As an outsider, I've always wondered how people could put their faith in God to reconcile man-made systems of oppression and inequality. What sort of prayer was ever going to make insulin more affordable, or change a dictator's heart? Even last month's volume admitted to this doubt. Prayer, I now know, doesn't inherently change the circumstances; but they strengthen our own ability to do so. I believe, now, that every skill and characteristic I have - including my weepy, fiery little personality - when tasked with Christ's command for goodness, generosity, and radical justice, is unstoppable. Not because I am unstoppable, but because His will is.
So today, I feel less despair than I did yesterday. Everything we abhor reflects the hurt we have to heal. We can only free what we recognize as caged; only redeem what we find to be broken.

May we do right by each other in this lifetime.

With love, love, love,
LC

What LC Read: Vol. 19 (Artisanal Soy Sauce, Football, Embezzlement, & More)

Monday, August 26, 2019




The Farm | Joanne Ramos
Notes: Like The Handmaid's Tale with the exquisite specificity of Filipino American literature (think remittances, "chosen" families, sacrifice, etc.). The unrealistic, haphazard ending had me bristling, but it's a nevertheless compelling and worthwhile book. Ooh, also: the "villain" of the book is one of those innocuously evil East Asian American sellouts -- you know the ones. Delicious.
Synopsis: Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money—more than you've ever dreamed of—to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery—or worse.
Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.





Normal People | Sally Rooney
Notes: My sister the Literature major hated this one, but I stand by its merits! I think it's one of those rare books written about young adults but for adults. There's enough nuance to curate and encourage nostalgia and empathy; but enough distance to feel sophisticated and retrospectively wise.
Synopsis: At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other. Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.





The Misfortune of Marion Palm | Emily Culliton
Note: I'm not really sure what I found so compelling about this book, since it was a drag to read and full of deeply unlikable people. Still, I got through it eventually. No resounding endorsement here.
Synopsis: Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather "a woman who embezzles." Over the years she has managed to steal $180,000 from her daughters' private school, money that has paid for European vacations, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, and perpetually unused state-of-the-art exercise equipment. But, now, when the school faces an audit, Marion pulls piles of rubber-banded cash from their basement hiding places and flees, leaving her family to grapple with the baffled detectives, the irate school board, and the mother-shaped hole in their house. Told from the points of view of Nathan, Marion's husband, heir to a long-diminished family fortune; Ginny, Marion's teenage daughter, who falls helplessly in love at the slightest provocation; Jane, Marion's youngest who is obsessed with a missing person of her own; and Marion herself, on the lam—and hiding in plain sight.





God Help the Child | Toni Morrison
Note: Re-reading Toni Morrison's works because obviously. This wasn't my favorite of hers, probably because it was uncharacteristically sparse. (Is that fair to say? Her works are never excessive, but they've always felt rich and this just didn't.) Still an aching, desperate novel.
Synopsis: God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish ... Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother ... Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother ... and Sweetness, Bride's mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget."





Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God | Francis Chan
Note: Probably what C.S. Lewis meant by "if you're looking for comfort, look elsewhere." (The actual quote is: If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.) Very little about my faith has centered on comfort - it's why I keep emphasizing my pursuit of clarity, which is often ugly and unpleasant but has never led me to a forsaken place.
Synopsis: Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?
It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.
Whether you've verbalized it yet or not, we all know something's wrong.
Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts-it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same.
Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.





Soy Sauce for Beginners | Kirstin Chen
Note: This had all the elements of an amazing book! Authored by a Chen! "Tension between personal ambition and filial duty!" My favorite Singaporean word, "Ang Mo," (used to describe white people) and its implications on interracial relationships! But I found this book severely lacking in any real meaning or character; I literally could not care less what happened to Gretchen despite wanting so badly to empathize with her. Very disappointing.
Synopsis: Gretchen Lin, adrift at the age of thirty, leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself face-to-face with the twin headaches she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business.
Surrounded by family, Gretchen struggles with the tension between personal ambition and filial duty, but still finds time to explore a new romance with the son of a client, an attractive man of few words. When an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen’s cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin’s Soy Sauce. In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore—and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite—Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family’s crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.





The Fifth Risk | Michael Lewis
Note: A dizzying, fast-paced read that reminds you all the horrible, incompetent people you refused to delegate to during group projects are now real adults with significant power and they still don't know how to do anything. Except now you're not there to save them. A shudder of a book. No, a grimace. Highly recommend (as I do of most of Lewis's books!).
Synopsis: "The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.
Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.
Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.
If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.





Book of Hours: Love Poems to God | Rainer Maria Rilke
Note: I don't know what there is left to say about Book of Hours that I haven't already sobbed to anybody who will listen. This was my point of no return to poetry; my personal copy is in tatters. The most divine, elegant, raw and human creation to ever grace earth. I will dedicate my firstborn to Rilke.
Synopsis: At the beginning of this century, a young German poet returned from a journey to Russia, where he had immersed himself in the spirituality he discovered there. He "received" a series of poems about which he did not speak for a long time - he considered them sacred, and different from anything else he ever had done and ever would do again. This poet saw the coming darkness of the century, and saw the struggle we would have in our relationship to the divine. The poet was Rainer Maria Rilke, and these love poems to God make up his Book of Hours.





The Blind Side | Michael Lewis
Note: I started this book with absolutely zero understanding of football. I don't think I've ever held a football in my life. Post-The Blind Side, I know... some things, none of which will prove to be of any practical use. But if you don't mind that your mind will keep wandering towards Sandra Bullock (who of course, played Leigh Anne Tuohy in the eponymous movie), this is such a good read. I love Michael Lewis. I really do. He made me care about sports.
Synopsis: When we first meet Michael Oher, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football and school after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family's love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game in which the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback's greatest vulnerability: his blind side.


Fitness Friday: No. 3

Friday, August 9, 2019


(CL Editor's Note: My half-marathon was on April 14th, so it's been 3 months.. oops!)

It's been a couple of months now since my half-marathon, though it feels like it's been a year. I can still remember some feelings of it quite vividly, but other feelings I've forgotten. Don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but I don't ever plan on running another half-marathon ever again. The toll it takes on your body (or at least the toll it took on mine) was huge. But completing the half-marathon felt like my greatest accomplishments in the past year. I truly have no idea how people do a full marathon at 26.2 miles when the half-marathon at 13.1 miles already tortured my soul.

To start, this race was actually my first ever race. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but you get put into "corrals" aka groups based on how fast your pace is. You also don't have to worry about not being able to run the first couple minutes, because the official time doesn't start until you cross the start line. They measure your official start based off of when your bib crosses the start line (something something bib tag something technology). As soon as I started, I knew this was the one and only chance I'd ever get at recording a half-marathon time since I knew right away I never wanted to run one again. This was great in that it pushed me to run fast! 

Pre-race I had woken up early to eat my home-made chocolate peanut butter oatmeal bowl for the #carbs #carbloading and during the race I ate Pro Bar Energy Chews. If you're thinking of running a half-marathon, definitely figure out what works for you but the consensus online is that you need to eat carbs beforehand and during the race mid-way through most take some energy gels or chews.

The hardest part of the half-marathon for me was probably the end. Every second of miles 10 to 13.1, I wanted to give up. I also vaguely remember getting a horrible cramp sometime in between and feeling as if my rib was broken. I'd definitely say that knowing the course helped me a lot because I knew when hills were coming and to mentally prepare myself for them. I think having people cheer for you around the end is really important whether it be strangers or loved ones.

All I remember about the "post-race" portion is cheering for my friend Dara and then us eating the free bagels and pretzels and juice they had given us. We both decided to take naps, so we passed out for a couple hours before meeting up again to eat together. Later that day, I ended up getting wonton soup, dumplings, Asian peanut noodles, and ice cream with her. We had been training together for the past month or two by running usually 4 - 6 miles once a weekend in Central Park. I also remember eating some cheap pizza later that night because I was starving from all that exercise! I think the best part of the half-marathon was finishing it, then sleeping, and then eating as much as I wanted to... haha!
Overall, I truly am so proud of myself for finishing my (one and only) half-marathon. There's just something about striving for a goal for a couple months and then accomplishing it that feels really satisfying. For those curious, my official time was 1:50:05 and my pace per mile was 8:24 (not sure if this actually really means anything to anyone though since running is truly an individual thing in my opinion).

Happy running,
CL

Not a Hot Take, I'm Just Mourning: Toni Morrison

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

Photo by Acadiana Center for the Arts

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” 
T O N I  M O R R I S O N

I always suspected that my body, my personhood were insufficient vessels for all the grief and gratitude I've tried to contain within it. I drown until I spill over. The news of Toni Morrison's passing this morning confirmed this belief to be true. I am shell-shocked and speechless; I want to genuflect in praise and incomprehensible joy. I want to hug strangers on the street. "Don't you know," I want to scream, "don't you know the good news: that literature and language are undying, incapable of certain death. Look at all that cannot be burned down. Look at what nobody can take away from us. Look at the love and light that will always, always, forever be ours to keep. Look at what has been left behind to save us all."

I could try to prescribe her works, or catalog her finest prose. But any reader knows that this is unnecessary. You'll find her when you're ready; or maybe, the words you needed will find you. There is an entire generational canon of literature that can trace its ancestry to Morrison: 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.' 
My own, little as it is, sits among these.

So I'll end with the words that found me last:
I am a writer and my faith in the world of art is intense but not irrational or naive. Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be. Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. My faith in art rivals my admiration for any other discourse. Its conversation with the public and among its various genres is critical to the understanding of what it means to care deeply and to be human completely. I believe. 
I'm so devastated. So indebted. Thank God for Toni Morrison, and for every teacher who's led me to her. May her journey home be mighty, freed.

LC

Sunday School: Vol. 2

Monday, August 5, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2  P E T E R 1 : 3 - 9



The world easily feels so devoid of hope. From the multiple mass shootings in the past month to the escalating violence in Hong Kong to the general cruelty of those who will simply never learn to forfeit their selfishness, my solitary, little heart feels overwhelmingly broken. With every iteration of "thoughts and prayers," I fill with rage. What, exactly, are you all praying for, if not the courage to seek justice? To stand alongside the oppressed, the immigrant, the unloved?

I know I'm at once shy and bewilderingly hot-tempered, but I love this world and those in it with my entire heart. Grief, then, feels like an inevitable amendment to the human condition, the price we pay for all this love. In a split second of clarity, I understood the devastation of our Creator, how His love dwarfs mine, and therefore his grief, too.

As I've mentioned before, my testimony feels incomplete. I don't know what, exactly, resurrected my faith - I have guesses, none of them valiant or noble or particularly gracious. But I do know that my life has been doubly full of disappointments and rage ever since I chose to surrender to God's will; I've also felt doubly capable to survive them all. Tough love, I'm learning, is Godly and true love. I don't ever want to settle for anything less, ever again (cc: Leona in a few months, trying to be babied by the next guy. Don't do it!)

Below, the lights on my path:

This essay on joy as resistance by Sarah Bessey:
I know I’m not alone in this: we are all carrying each other’s pain this summer, it seems. It feels as if the world is burning down and we feel powerless to help and so we grieve and we get angry and we post things on Facebook, we march and we protest and we gather and we tell politicians what the problem really is, we watch the news and we cry and yell about things and then we look around our daily lives and wonder, am I doing enough to fix it? And is it a betrayal to not feel sad all the time? To not be in despair over the state of the world?
Here’s the thing about Christian joy – it isn’t stupid. Joy is the affirmation of the truest thing of all: redemption, restoration, reconciliation. It’s resistance. It’s a resistance of the false and broken to embrace and practice the true and the whole. We are prophesying with our lives. In the face of poverty, we practice generosity. In the face of ugliness, we practice beauty. In the face of injustice, we practice justice and mercy. In the rhetoric of fear, we declare be not afraid! In the face of racism, we practice reconciliation. In the face of despair, we practice hope. In the face of ignorance, we practice wisdom and knowledge. We name it, we aren’t afraid of it, and then while the Not-Yet looks on in disbelief at our cheek, we set to work putting things as they are-and-will-be.

 This statement written by members of Progressive Asian American Christians, a community for socially, politically, and theologically progressive Asian American and Asia diaspora Christians:
WE BELIEVE that the pursuit of social justice is essential to a life of faith in Jesus and is a present-day calling of the church. The credibility of reconciliation is obstructed when Christian communities proclaim it in a way that perpetuates the separation of its members. In this document, we specifically name discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexuality, and class [2] as perpetuating alienation and enmity to God and between members of humankind. We deny any teaching that appeals to the Gospel to legitimize discrimination, and we proclaim that such separation denies in advance the Gospel’s reconciling power. (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13; Galatians 5:1-15; James 2:8-9; James 4).
  • God placed us in families and in communities. Our God-created nature depends on being connected with and cared for by others (Ruth 1:16-17; Romans 12:5; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • We are inherently social beings.
  • God wills that things are restored, repaid, made whole, and made new here on Earth (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 22:1-7).
  • This is the spirit of justice.
  • God’s will is manifested in societies where the needs of those that don’t have enough are fulfilled by those who have more than enough (Acts 4:32-35). When God walked among us, Jesus taught and lived by this principle (Luke 6:17-26; Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 14:13-21).
  • Things are made right through communities of people.
In other words, God’s will is social justice.

The next installment in Transformation Church's "Relationship Goals" series, Single, Not Alone, on the importance of maximizing our singleness:


One of my greatest fears in life is a bad marriage, which seems counterproductive given that I've been in some sort of relationship for most of the last decade (lol, I know). I always thought that the key to a satisfying marriage (because nobody taught me and I had to figure this out for myself) was lots and lots of practice: learning their love language, putting in the effort, figuring out who you are as a partner. So I've always prided myself on being an increasingly good girlfriend. I'm more patient. I try to be sweet. I get dangerously close to "pick me" territory. But I'm learning - in my early twenties, thankfully, that to put my identity as a partner ahead of my identity as a whole, solitary individual nearly promises disaster and loss of self. This sermon suggests that marriage doesn't improve upon our single selves; it exposes it. Everything we believe, deep down, to be true about ourselves is laid bare in a serious relationship; are we prepared for this?

The Bible Project's 1-Year Reading Plan, which I'm working through at the moment:
As a side note, I prefer reading a physical bible so I can highlight/take notes/cover it in post-its, but the Reading Scripture app is really user-friendly, too!


This resounding insistence that how we treat immigrants is how we treat God:
Many of Christianity’s tenets are inherently illogical and absurd —  a person being fully man and fully God; a person rising from the dead; miracles (like being swallowed alive by a fish); angels and supernatural beings; an afterlife … If Christians can accept these things as true, the basic themes of the gospel: love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, and hope can hardly be questioned. Yet many Christians are failing to abide by these fundamental truths, refusing to follow God’s greatest command. For people claiming the faith of Christ, showing love and compassion to immigrants, no matter their status, is a requirement of following Jesus — there is no alternative.

This poem from Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours:
God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds
from each of our lives:
the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
our need.  

Finally, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, by Francis Chan:
If you merely pretend that you enjoy God or love Him, He knows. You can't fool Him; don't even try. Instead, tell Him how you feel. Tell Him that He isn't the most important thing in this life to you, and that you're sorry for that. Tell Him that you've been lukewarm, that you've chosen ___________ over Him time and time again. Tell Him that you want Him to change you, that you long to genuinely enjoy Him. Tell Him how you want to experience true satisfaction and pleasure and joy in your relationship with Him. Tell Him you want to love Him more than anything on this earth. Tell Him you want to treasure the kingdom of heaven so much that you'd willingly sell everything in order to get it. Tell Him what you like about Him, what you appreciate, and what brings you joy. 'Jesus, I need to give myself up. I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own. I can't do it, and I need You. I need You deeply and desperately. I believe You are worth it, that You are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next. I want You. And when I don't, I want to want You. Be all in me. Take all of me. Have Your way with me'.
With love, love, love,
LC

The Catalogue: No. 34

Sunday, August 4, 2019


I love reading juicy things and Money Diaries by Refinery29 are some of my favorite reads. The idea is that you get a peek into the life of someone and how much they spend per week and on what. There's people making over $200,000, but also people making $17 an hour. The people talk about what subscriptions they have (e.g., Netflix, Blue Apron, Spotify) or what their parents help them with (e.g., rent or groceries) and it's all so interesting. Money and spending can be such a taboo topic, but these definitely provide insight into other people's lives. There are joint income stories and college student stories. I love them all.

There's shocking ones like the spending of a woman in LA making $0. Like did she really just pay a company $24 to do her laundry when she could save a lot of money by going to a laundromat or when she talks about her call with her lawyer because "a random meth addict wandering around the Hills managed to break into my house".

There's 'wholesome' ones like a banking analyst in NY who ends up moving to London to work at a hedge fund. I love that she writes about her spending and life both when she was in New York and then gives readers an update now that she's in London. I appreciate how genuine she is in her Money Diaries and she just seems like someone I could have known in my life.

Some also submit their own money diary about how they don't make much, but are able to do nice, fun things thanks to their parents. It's also crazy reading about how she has a friend with a CHEF! I am both envious and judgmental (for lack of a better word).

It's always fun to get a little sneak peek into other people's lives. As long as it's not causing you to feel bad, it's pretty interesting to see what other people do with their money. Most people's lives are nowhere near as glamorous as you may think. I personally enjoy the crazy ones, but I also like to read the ones of people living in New York making a similar amount to me and just seeing what they choose to spend their money on vs. what I choose to spend my money on (food, Pret, Starbucks, shopping, etc.).

Enjoy,
CL

3 Ways to Keep Burnout at Bay

Friday, August 2, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA

1. Always have something extracurricular to look forward to on your calendar
It's probably so on-brand that my most effective way to navigate stress is to add something else to my calendar. Buuuuut,  note that it has to be extracurricular!
I never understood how spa days/manicures/massages could be part of a regular self-care routine because I am stingy, but I see the appeal now: dedicated, regimented time for forced stillness. Make this an activity that categorically has not contributed to your burnout: if the intensity of a really disciplined workout is getting to you, for example (but also, good for you), scheduling another yoga class probably misses the point. Or if you're a creative, even a casual paint day might not be as effective. Really, truly deviate from your everyday life. Eat out if you rarely do so (doesn't have to be somewhere nice! And if you go alone, like I love doing, you can bring an easy-read book so you aren't tempted to check your emails/be productive). See a movie or live show. Catch up with a college roommate.
The key for me is to have this on my calendar to remind myself that I have to commit to "pleasurable" activities as much as I do personal and professional ones. I'm not someone who just fits in "me time" in spare pockets of my planner; while spontaneity is great, having something extracurricular to look forward to reminds me that I have a life and identity beyond what I "need" to do.



2. Take mental and emotional inventory
Yes, ladies, this is indeed an exciting list-making opportunity!
1. Make a list of everything that's stressing you out. Get as granular as you'd like, then categorize them into "themes" that seem to make sense: this could be centered around their source (work, romantic relationships, health/fitness), or their trigger (a lack of time, feeling unfulfilled, etc.).
2. Circle what you feel is absolutely, holistically the most important. Not the item most immediately due, but the one with the most "spiritual urgency." Please don't let this be, like, a top-line company initiative. What matters to you the most? What would make you feel fulfilled? What would help you feel more like yourself?
3. Circle what you feel is the most important in each of your themes: if one of your themes is "career," for example, apply the Pareto principle: what is one project that will have maximum impact at work? If you're being an A+ list-maker and have included emotional triggers, is there an interaction or environment that you encounter most frequently?
4. Everything you've circled is all that matters for now. Everything else is just noise. It's cool that you want to start rock climbing and take that online CS certification course and develop a better relationship with your sister-in-law, but it can wait. You've now whittled your life down from overachievement to smart achievement: first, you're going to find a purpose again. Then, you're going to move the needle in a few, strategic moves. Then, you're going to take a break. That is all you get to do. I mean it.



3. Check up on your strong, powerful friends - especially the ones who always seem to have their shit together
I've always had friends who are astoundingly clever, ambitious, and well-rounded. Like, not just your typical "did well in school, holds down a nice corporate job in finance/consulting/etc." high achiever, but literal startup founders, Fulbright scholars, side hustlers, teachers, and grassroots activists. Honestly, the average of my circle is 10x the person I aspire to be (related: Combating Jealousy in Friendships). And while that can be intimidating, I've also seen this deeply human, suffering part of genius that I've come to respect and, consequently, make room for. The "social media only shows the highlights of our imperfect, chaotic lives" bit feels so superficial when it's made to be about stretch marks, messy hair, and cellulite. The real shit is the social policy trailblazer who can't reconcile with her conservative, racist parents; the MD/PhD candidate who obsessively substitutes sex for companionship; the community organizer battling anxiety and chronic depression. I've had the most productive, rewarding conversations reaching out to the friends who seem to be doing amazing in life.
The work here is twofold: one, you come to realize how much people sacrifice for their success - and beyond that, the toll of constant sacrifice. Seeing what excellence costs helps you put its pursuit into perspective. Repeat after me: hustle porn is a lie. 
Second, you learn to be more generous with yourself. I tend to be so forgiving and pragmatic with the people I love. I want them to rest far more than I allow myself to; I honor their needs and fears more than my own. Most people do. Very good friends will allow you to take care of them, all the while reflecting the ways you need to be taken care of.



Take care of yourself.
With love always,
LC

What LC Read: Vol. 18 (Mormonism, #MeToo, & Radical Jesus)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA



Elders | Ryan McIlvain 
Notes: Randomly picked this one for the cover/spine art and found it such a satisfying, human introduction to a religion I'm unfamiliar with. I'm always so moved by how people arrive at their beliefs, even when/especially if they're far from mine. I've been reading more faith-based non-fiction, which tends to start from a place of conviction, rather than doubt. While I see their purpose (nobody's going to read a memoir called "I am sure of absolutely nothing, but here goes"), they also seems to create so much distance between those who are struggling in their faith and those who, I guess, don't explicitly admit to doing so. This one felt so tenderly human and forgiving, though the ending was a bit abrupt.
Synopsis: Elder McLeod—outspoken, surly, a brash American—is nearing the end of his mission in Brazil. For nearly two years he has spent his days studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon, knocking on doors, teaching missionary lessons—“experimenting on the word.” His new partner is Elder Passos, a devout, ambitious Brazilian who found salvation and solace in the church after his mother’s early death. The two men are at first suspicious of each other, and their work together is frustrating, fruitless. That changes when a beautiful woman and her husband offer the missionaries a chance to be heard, to put all of their practice to good use, to test the mettle of their faith.  But before they can bring the couple to baptism, they must confront their own long-held beliefs and doubts, and the simmering tensions at the heart of their friendship.
A novel of unsparing honesty and beauty, Elders announces Ryan McIlvain as a writer of enormous talent.




Whisper Network | Chandler Baker
Notes: I hate admitting that I was surprised to like this one, as if it betrays some part of me that doesn't want to root for women. There's so much to untangle in our personal reactions to this book (how quickly we side with the men or not, our insistence that we will uniquely never face such circumstances, our expectations for the respectability politics of womanhood, etc.). I found Whisper Network a worthwhile, "easy" read. Clearly urgent, relevant, and funny enough to avoid being frustratingly prescriptive.
Synopsis: Four women learn their boss (a man who’s always been surrounded by rumors about how he treats women) is next in line to be CEO—what will happen when they decide enough is enough?
Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are four women who have worked at Truviv, Inc., for years. The sudden death of Truviv's CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Ames is a complicated man, a man they’ve all known for a long time, a man who’s always been surrounded by...whispers. Whispers that have always been ignored by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching Ames’s latest promotion differently. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues set in motion a catastrophic shift within every floor and department of the Truviv offices. All four women’s lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.
"If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened."




Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth | Reza Aslan
Note: SO GOOD. SO, SO, SO GOOD. Was recommended this by a coworker, which makes me believe more vehemently in the intimacy and friendship of book recommendations. Compelling, powerful evidence that Jesus was/is a man worth following, and not for the reasons so often taught in church. I've never highlighted so many passages in a book or found myself so breathlessly fascinated. I urge you to read this, whatever system of faith you hold (or don't).
Synopsis: Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.




At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among My Ancestors & Refugee Neighbors | Russell Jeung
Note: A re-read from two summers ago, At Home in Exile presented additional depth and significance when I tried it again with a more open heart toward's God's grace. This book is exceptionally wise in a way that only arises at intersections of crises: that of the ever-wandering Hakka, that of the justice-minded, imperfect Christian, that of the privileged among the not. I can't recommend this book, especially its epilogue, enough as an example of a true Christianity that resists the white-washed, controlling, conservative message of fearful white supremacists masquerading as evangelicals. "Quite literally," Jeung writes, "God calls us to be guest families who recognize that we do not fit in this world, and that our present sufferings will soon pass. This knowledge enables us to endure and hope, to travel through this life lightly while resolutely seeking the peace of the city. In fact, the Hakka were described as 'a people of the future' precisely because they could suffer through forced migration again and again as they diligently worked for a real home. And today, we Christians in the United States are continually invited by the King of Kings to a rich and royal calling. God invites us to be Hakka."
Synopsis: Russell Jeung’s spiritual memoir shares the joyful and occasionally harrowing stories of his life in East Oakland’s Murder Dubs neighborhood—including battling drug dealers who threatened him, exorcising a spirit possessing a teen, and winning a landmark housing settlement against slumlords with 200 of his closest Cambodian and Latino friends.
More poignantly, At Home in Exile weaves in narratives of longing and belonging as Jeung retraces the steps of his Chinese-Hakka family and his refugee neighbors. In the face of forced relocation and institutional discrimination, his family and friends resisted time and time again over six generations.
With humor and keen insight, At Home in Exile will help you see how living in exile will transform your faith.


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