Archives for category: community

Following Jesus’ call to plant Anchor City Church in January has been an adventure all the way!

Please take a minute and watch this short video (filmed and produced by some very talented creatives from our community) that introduces our heart & vision for Anchor City:


May God’s will be done in San Diego as it is in heaven!

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Every once in awhile, my lovely wife and I will bust out our Lord of the Rings special-edition DVDs (no, not Blu-Ray. We’re old-school like that) and immerse ourselves in the epic world of Middle Earth.

Funny timing, then, that we recently finished a viewing right before a set of events unfolded that would remind me that—as much as I’d like to be Aragorn or Gandalf—I’m more like one of the Shire-folk. But there is great honor in learning to fulfill our small part of God’s Kingdom work: after all, some of the greatest Kingdom work is accomplished through the unnoticed and overlooked.

As Galadriel tells Frodo in the midst of his fear:

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future

I am truly thankful for the leadership, tenacity, truth-telling, and grace of leaders (many of whom I’m blessed to call friends) such as Kathy Khang, Helen Lee, Ken Fong, Sam Tsang, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Bruce Reyes-Chow, David Park, and many, many others.

Jesus is recreating a people for Himself from those who are near and far away, from every tribe, nation, culture, ethnicity, and language.

This is our story to tell the world:

A better story of hope, redemption, life, salvation, justice, beauty, and truth in a diverse church that reflects the creativity and joy of Christ.

Recent events have reminded us how far we have to go in that journey, but that there is always hope.

I invite you to join with pastors, doctors, professors, artists, students, missionaries, attorneys, editors, accountants, counselors, moms, dads, and friends and raise your voice and sign this open letter to the church, to commit yourself to racial reconciliation, understanding, and forming a more credible witness to a broken world around us.

As I mentioned, I have felt quite Hobbit-ish in the midst of all these heavyweights. Most days, all I want to do is be the best husband and dad I can be, provide for my family, and live into our calling here in our little corner of the world in San Diego. My role in this story has been quite small, but I know that it is important not to give up—to lift my voice for my family, our church community, for Asian Americans, and for all people so that the world will know how great a Redeemer Jesus is.

I am incredibly thankful for my lovely wife—a profoundly gifted pastor, church leader, wife, mom, and reflection of the humble love of Jesus to the world. In many ways, it was her voice that became a sort of holy tipping point for one particular conversation with our friends from Exponential. As she shared her story, the doors of empathy and understanding opened.

It is no mistake, I think, that God used her voice to speak powerfully to a group consisting mostly of men. Like my friend Eugene, I also support women in all levels of church leadership. I believe this is the faithful reading of Scripture and, from my experience, the story the church needs to share with the broken world around us: God is unleashing His dreams through all of His daughters & sons, just as He promised so long ago.

As this conversation moves forward, I look forward to the unique leadership of brave, godly, and strong women (as well as the voices of my brothers in Christ).

Friends, your voice matters.

If you need to be reminded, I encourage you to read Connie Zhou’s story. Perhaps some of you will see yourself reflected back. Or, even if you are coming from a different place altogether, you will benefit from hearing her voice.

As the Church, may we plant and cultivate communities who are radically committed to loving our actual neighbors with the transforming love of Jesus.

Is there something in the water that’s making people freak out on retail employees?

Maybe it’s not a zombie apocalypse for which we need to prepare, but an angry shopper-pocalypse. At least that’s what it’s felt like the last couple of days.

Last week I saw a customer becoming extremely irate at a cashier at a local Target. Perhaps this sort of thing wouldn’t have caught my attention normally, but this rather large woman was screaming down into the face of the much smaller cashier, who eventually left the checkout lane in tears.

While waiting for her contact lenses, a Costco optical employee told my wife the story of a customer completely freaking out on her over the weekend.

* An aside; It’s not in the Bible, but I’m pretty sure my lovely wife has the spiritual gift of making complete strangers feel so at ease that they end up sharing much of their story with her in a very short time. Amazing. 

Just yesterday, I was asking a Verizon employee a few questions when I noticed her glance over my shoulder a couple of times. There was another customer at the entrance losing it on another employee, ranting and gesticulating wildly.

Diagnosing the low-grade fever of anger seething beneath the surface of many people in our culture is above my pay grade, but I do see troubling connections between people freaking out at the local big box store and how we, as the Church, often handle conflict.

Rick Warren recently set forward a chain of events that played out as it has many times before (Kathy Khang has been a great voice in all of this; catch up on the particulars of what transpired here). Thankfully, this story ended in a sort of apology (for reals, one of the first things I learned in married life is that an authentic apology does not contain the word “if”).

I can’t read the minds of the three aforementioned aggrieved shoppers, but I wonder if they know what they look like from the outside when their faces become contorted in anger, seething red and rage for everyone to see. I know we’re all capable of forgetting ourselves, so I don’t want to judge them too harshly — in fact, I’m guessing that it wouldn’t even occur to them to consider what is happening outside of themselves in that moment.

And therein lies the problem for the Church.

Sure, others might look at someone who is hurt or offended and run down their checklist of dismissals:

  • Get over yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously
  • Grow a thicker skin. Get a sense of humor.
  • I wasn’t offended by that, so what’s your problem?
  • Why are you looking for reasons to be offended? I’m so sick of the PC police.

But should this be the heart of those who proclaim Christ as King? Seriously, take a look (if you have the stomach) at the list of dismissals, attacks, and “you’re great; what’s wrong with those people?” in the comments of Rick Warren’s FB apology. Double yikes.

In Scripture, followers of Jesus don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way. What’s wrong with you?”

They humbly serve like Jesus, listen, seek to understand, and hope to win their hearts. At least that’s how I’m reading Philippians 2:1-11.

Even if we think someone’s concerns are ridiculous or unfounded, what benefit is there in waving them off with a sneer, questioning their very salvation, or attacking their character? Has such an approach ever changed someone’s mind?

Of course, the way of Jesus is much, much slower and more difficult than any of us would like. As James says:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Listening is an act of love, as StoryCorps often beautifully reminds us.

If Jesus is our King, and He is redeeming us, then shouldn’t there be visible evidence that we will live, move, and have our being in profoundly different ways than what encounter out there?

What if we asked Jesus to crush that urge we have in us to respond with, “Well, that’s dumb” when we hear someone share their concerns with us. What if we listened with the Father’s heart?

Doesn’t look like much of a revolution but, then again, the Kingdom is sort of like that.

Listening — really listening — could be the unseen force that becomes tangible, visible evidence that another Kingdom is already here and is on its way.

.   .   .   .   .

Seriously, read this story from an Apple store employee (it’s the last one in this long post) and tell me that listening won’t change things: 

A manager scans the Genius Bar then approaches me. “Got something for you,” he says.

I exhale, leaving behind the comforting barrier of the Genius Bar for the open floor.

“See the lady that Dana is talking to?,” he says. “Her cat just died. So did her hard drive. You’re going to sit with her while we see what we can do. It might not be much, so prep her for that. You got this.”

He strides off to the opposite side of the store. To put out another fire, I presume.

All employees learn acronyms of steps to help empathize with customers. I can’t disclose them, as the Wall Street Journal already has, but they’re less important than the holistic goal. The gist is this: If you’ve never lost a cat, like this fragile woman Barbara just has, you can at least conjure a loss that would be as significant to you, so that you can relate. If you can illustrate to her that you get it, you’ll feel more and seem fully sympathetic.

However, since my mom never let me have a pet, I got nothing. I consider lying. I don’t want to lie. I wish I knew how the repair was going. I tell her I have lost hard drives before. I try to laugh bravely to her about semesters of research and libraries of mostly legal music evaporating. How it’s nothing like losing a companion, but how devastating it was to my freshman self.

Barbara is deflating on the designer stool right in front of me when my teammate brings out her laptop and, thank God, it actually boots up intact.

“It’s working,” I beam.

“Do you know how to check my pictures?”

“Sure,” I reply. “Right here in iPhoto.”

A grid of images of Barbara and a silver-haired man spring up. I wish I could un-see some of the images in customers’ photo libraries, but these are extraordinarily vanilla. Awkward-seated portraits in a garden, by some boats, at the beach, basic slice of life banality.

“That’s my husband.”

She’s crying with joy.

“He died last year… before I could print any of these images out. Thank you!”

My stomach drops. This, my manager didn’t know to tell me. I try hard not think of what it would have meant had we not gotten her computer back online.

I look up at the dozens of people cradling their aluminum babies. Tapping their feet, chewing their nails, licking their lips, they’re worried bad about something that matters to them. I wish Barbara the best of luck, really meaning it, and excuse myself. I unholster my iPod and call out the next customer’s name.

photo

I returned recently from my second trip with Living Water International to Nicaragua to help bring clean water to a community in need. It is so humbling to be a small part of what God is doing there to demonstrate His love & care for the world.

Jorge, the team leader in Rivas, Nicaragua, told us a heartbreaking story about the reality of the water crisis. Recently, after completing a well, an elderly man from the village told Jorge he was very grateful, but that the well was two years too late. Jorge found out that the man’s wife had died two years earlier from water-related disease.

As a friend from our church community shared in his testimony this past Sunday, as we spent the week in the mud, digging and drilling for clean water, we could sense God saying to our new friends there that He has not abandoned them.  Despite the staggering statistics (almost 800 million without access to clean water, over 2 million water-related deaths each year), we know that God has not given up — and neither have we!

When the church answers the call to action, being willing to get our hands dirty so that others can live, our living sacrifice paves the way for the Living Water of Christ to flow.

Learn more about LWI’s work here:

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Robots

I am, like many of us, quite wary of people who claim to have heard God speak to them.

As Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.”

That is, it’s way too easy for us to hear what we want to hear, and then attribute it to God.

However, I do believe God speaks.

Certainly, through Scripture — and not the “Bible roulette” kind of reading, where God’s Word becomes little more than tarot cards or tea leaves as we try to divine the future.

No, the kind of reading that engages us at the deepest level, where it grabs hold of our thoughts and to which we return again and again weeks after reading it. The kind of Bible reading that illuminates our understanding of how things are and the incomparable heart and character of God. The kind that challenges, upsets, and upends our way of thinking.

I also believe God speaks through His people.

Again, not through the blustery megaphone wielded like a sledgehammer or the arrogant presumptions of those who simply want to control others.

Often, I find that God speaks most powerfully through people when they don’t even realize He’s speaking through them.

A friend from our church community recently shared an amazing story about how God was at work in ordinary and unforeseen ways through him.

One of his friends, who we’ll call John — whose only religious background is Buddhist — had a dream in which someone came to him, handed him a book, and told him that if he wanted to be successful in life, he should read this.

When John opened the cover, he discovered it was the Bible.

My friend directed John to connect with a church in his area, and he has been taking steps toward faith.

However, God did not speak to John randomly, out of the blue (although I know God does speak powerfully through dreams, particularly in areas in which following Jesus is dangerous or against culture or law).

John revealed that it was a Facebook photo my friend had posted that got him thinking about what he wanted his life to be about.

That photo was from one of our church’s housebuilding trips across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. And as John saw this photo, it made him think that about sacrifice and service.

My friend is a phenomenal photographer with an amazing artistic eye. But he had no intention of proselytizing through his photo.

He was simply sharing with family and friends what our community was up to. And that natural discussion of how we’re joining what God is doing in our ordinary and everyday lives is, to me, an incredibly powerful witness.

May you walk so closely to Christ that you cannot help but hear His voice, and may He speak powerfully through you.

The statistics can crush us, if we let them sink in.

Every year, over 3 million people die from water-related disease. 

Every day, water-related disease claims the lives of 5,000 children under the age of 5, or roughly one death for every 15 seconds that pass.

Over 800 million people around the world do not have access to clean water.

I do not want to live in a world where kids die for lack of access to clean water.

As a follower of Christ, I firmly believe that God’s heart aches for the suffering.

It has been a dream of mine for several years to participate in a well-digging trip. This past summer, I was privileged to lead a team from our church community in partnership with Living Water International to dig a well for a community in need in Granada, Nicaragua.

I love the work and ministry of LWI. Through clean water projects, LWI shares the living water of Jesus to bring the true hope that changes everything.

On a personal note, there are very few things as satisfying as collapsing into bed at night, completely exhausted from giving it all for the Kingdom.

This Kingdom of God is near: In the hard work of digging through the mud and hauling pipes, in the laughter of speaking broken Spanish with giggling kids from the neighborhood, in newfound friendship working side-by-side with local community members.

I learned so much from Jorge, the leader of the Rivas LWI team. His patience and humor helped guide our team through a week filled with plenty of challenges. From a ministry perspective, I deeply appreciate LWI’s approach of training, equipping, and consulting with local leaders. Rather than showing up with all the answers from an outside perspective, I believe effective and God-honoring ministry is founded upon a posture of humble listening and genuine partnership.

We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with LWI. We’ll be sending a team to Guatemala this year, and another team to Nicaragua next summer. It’s a privilege and joy to be a part of God’s redemptive work in world, to share the living water of Jesus and a cup of cold water in His name to those in need.

As I’ve shared here before, the Idea Camp tribe has been such an important part of my life & ministry over the last couple of years. This collaborative movement of idea-makers has been a constant source of inspiration.

No, you’re not crazy if you think that it’s more important to work together for the Kingdom of God than to seek individual credit or accolades. This ethos of partnership, collaboration, and getting things done is rooted in the ethos of Charles Lee, the founder and glue behind the Idea Camp.

I’m grateful for Charles, who has been an encouraging friend and wise mentor to me (and many others)  in so many ways. I’m never surprised to see the caliber of people Charles is able to bring together. For example, check out the roster of speakers Charles has lined up for this year’s Ideation Conference in Chicago.


Today, Charles’ first book, Good Idea. Now What? hits the shelves at brick & mortar bookstores (and, of course, at various online retailers). Good Idea is filled with practical insights, both from Charles’ experience and from his vast network of social entrepreneurs — including Soledad O’Brien of CNN, Scott Harrison of charity: water, and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS.

Good Idea is written for two kinds of people. From the introduction:

1. The idea lover who is sick of just sitting on great ideas: These are individuals who recognize that their ideas may never come to pass without a strategic process and a developed skill set.

2. The idea maker who needs to refresh and reaffirm his or her understanding of the elements for implementing ideas well: No matter how experienced you may be, this book will be a good resource for sparking meaningful conversations about your ideas.

The world needs us to dream better dreams, but even more than that, to act on our convictions. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Charles where I wasn’t encouraged, challenged, and/or inspired to action. I highly recommend Good Idea. Now What? and I’m excited to see the great ideas that get put into action as a result.

You can read a sample chapter here.