Newtown. in remembrance

newtown-memory

I am crushed.

Those are about the only words I could muster in the wake of the unthinkable tragedy that struck Newtown. In my adulthood I have been well acquainted with grief. I have observed it, felt it scratching and digging at the very fibers that string my life together. Still it is a language I could never capture. I suppose I’m not the only one. There are no words that can quite hold such weight of pain, loss, despair.

The news was both shocking yet all too familiar in our nation’s recent history. A man walked into an elementary school and gunned down 26 people, most of whom were children ages 6 and 7. Just like that. Kids who woke up that morning thinking about their next game of handball at recess, or daydreaming about the end of the day so their parents could take them to see all the nicely decorated houses and trees in the neighboring town–gone. Kids whose lives had just begun, their futures now violently robbed. Hughes spoke of dreams deferred; these bullets demolished them.

That same night I had been asked by my pastor to do a reading of my children’s book to the kids at our church staff Christmas party. Could I tell you how it felt to look into those precious souls and consider that it could have been any one of them? In one demonic fit of madness it could have been Grant or Wes or Jaron or Natty. Or all of them. I sat there, going through my words, turning page by page, reading from a book that I had written to build education and inspire life. I had always considered the war to be fought in the battlegrounds of the heart and mind; never did I think we’d have to protect our classrooms from madmen and their bullets. I wonder if I’m in the wrong business. If I’m supposed to explode guns and exorcise men who are battling some serious demons.

Newtown, I observe you, I remember you, but I have no words for your grief. I know your pain is immeasurable beyond that. I can only pray for brighter days, a greater hope, a comfort that transcends understanding. Perhaps my sentiments are best echoed by our president when he says: “Whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide … Newtown, you are not alone.”

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Wake Up, Singles

As the title suggests, this post is about how to endure against the tilt-a-whirl of the Christian dating scene. It was inspired by a recent conversation with a friend, who voiced her frustrations stemming from her latest encounter with the opposite sex. Our discussion made me realize that her story and this topic is not an anomaly. In fact, it’s quite common in the Christian circle. So, I’m writing this partially to appease her.

But I’m also writing this because I haven’t been good at this romance thing either. This post is, in a weird way, a pep talk to myself to risk and to dare more in the dating realm. So, take from these words what you can. After all, I’m no expert on the subject, and I speak mainly from my own experience.

(There, that’s my full disclosure.)

Frankly, Christians need to be more open towards getting to know the opposite sex. I think guys shouldn’t be afraid to ask girls out to coffee if they want to know them better, and girls should be more willing to accept dates–even if his hair is shaggy or he acts a little awkward sometimes.

I say this knowing full well that I’ve been guilty of not practicing what I’ve preached. After a couple failed relationships and several false starts, I was hesitant to dive deep into the dating pool. In my experiences, it seemed as though girls weren’t willing to explore it further or I lost interest and ended up hurting them. Nothing in-between, nothing steady. I thought I was no good at it. I almost kissed dating goodbye.

What ended up happening was that I started armchair dating. If finding a mate is like looking to buy a house, then I was effectively camping outside different properties wondering, “What’s behind the door?” I was trying to figure out if I wanted to buy a house without looking inside. I was imagining who she was or how she should be without really exploring or learning about her in person. I began to sit back and wait until I thought I had come across someone who had that perfect combination of beauty, personality, humor, spirituality, intelligence, vision, direction, motivation and passion (I’ll admit, my standards are a bit high). In my mind, she would come as a package, ready and open for someone like me to possess and there’d be no working at it. And she’d also see what an amazing catch I was (if truth hurts, there’s always delusion). So I waited, and waited. As you can imagine, no one came around.

A couple of my friends had to wake me up. They showed me that I was subtly maneuvering to control all my variables, that I was trying to make clean and orderly a process that is inherently messy. I had to come to understand and accept that there are inherent risks involved in dating. I was putting myself out there to possibly get hurt or disappointed. But so are those who agreed to date me. I cannot do their job for them–to guard their heart if they aren’t willing to protect it themselves–nor could I guarantee myself a painless, rejection-free process. But this is what it means to date in the real. The only other option was to remain in the realm of safe, imagined hypotheticals. To quote C.S. Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.”

So readers, here’s the application. I encourage you to be more open to knowing the opposite sex. This isn’t about lowering your standards (although some of you might need to do that), it’s about lowering your barrier of entry. Sometimes we set the bar so high that no real person would ever reach it. I’m not saying you should settle. Don’t settle. But just recognize that a lot of what you’re looking for in another person cannot be found in one interaction or on a first date. You need to allow yourself room for things to develop. Be patient.

Also, I should add that the process isn’t as important as the person. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for dates or you’re looking to be arranged. Whatever you do, just be intentional and treat others with respect. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll both know, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

But don’t live in the clouds. This is not where spouses are found, nor where the deep roots of relational knowing are developed. Be willing to attend the open house. Knock. Get inside. See for yourself.

Best wishes to you in your journey of risk and vulnerability, and God willing, love.

A Day In The Life…

It’s February 29 today. I don’t really have anything significant to say, but since I only get to do this once every four years, I figure I should just write something. So…why don’t I do this old school style and write about my day, kinda like what we used to write about in our blogs or diaries when we were younger?

– I woke today and made myself some bread with strawberry spread. I listened to a message by Greg Laurie while driving on the way to work. It was about wealth and not falling in love with riches for it is temporal. Good reminder.

– I got a lot of work done in the office today. It’s great to be and feel productive. I shared the BBQ short ribs that I made last night for dinner with my co-workers. They loved it.

– I stopped by Joghurt on the way back to the house to say hi to a guy named Jonny whom I just met two weeks ago. It was his birthday today. Met some cool people and talked to a nice guy who’s getting his masters in philosophy. I love the Biola community.

– Came home and went for a second attempt at a turkey spinach melt. It was just right this time–went a little lighter on the salt with some different seasoning as well. Good meal.

– Watched some ESPN highlights. Knicks won (Lin had 19 pts, 13 rebs, only 1 TO), Lakers won (a team effort led by a masked Kobe), and US beat Italy 1-0 in an int’l friendly. Overall great day of sports for me. (Well, except for that whole UCLA story breaking out…)

– Prepped a sermon that I’ll be delivering to my Lifesong church family this coming Sunday. Very excited and a bit antsy at the same time. Let’s just hope God speaks and moves through me.

– Took a shower. I smell fresh n’ clean now.

…And that’s pretty much my day. It’s funny, I haven’t written an entry like that in years, if not longer. But it felt good, perhaps even a bit therapeutic. This sort of entry reminds me of all the small little wonders that happen every day in our lives. It’s just learning to see the magical and memorable moments in the ordinary that can be the challenge. But when you start to see this way, you slowly realize that every breath given to us by God is nothing short of an outright miracle. Thank you Jesus for these miracles.

Happy Leap Day, everybody!

It’s Never Sunny in Seattle

At least that’s what I’ve heard. So when my plane pulled into the terminal last night amidst a huge torrent of rain, coming down like sheets of liquid bullets shooting sideways, I didn’t think I’d wake up to see this:

Yes…the sun. I hear it rarely makes an appearance up here, but it didn’t even take a day for me to find it. It’s the same sun that shines in LA, that I take for granted all too often, but here it’s peeking through to lend the place some light. It’s like the plants and trees rehearse so that whenever it appears, they are ready to reflect their wondrous colors onto the world:

I’ve only been here less than 24 hours, but I am already in love with this city. The weather, though a bit nippy, is crisp and cool. And the Seattle folks are unlike Angelinos–they are quite nice. They take time to make conversation with you, and in fact, welcome the opportunity to meet strangers. Smiles come on the faces of both the poor and rich, and hello’s are doled out by the dozens. There is a spirited current running through this city…it’s infectious.

Since my buddy Josh had to work, I took the community bus from Lynnwood to Downtown on my own. I went out looking for an adventure, for stories, and I found it not in the buildings or monuments, but in the people. Right as I hopped off the bus, on 5th and Pine, I saw a man on the street holding up a sign that read “help”and “jobless.” Caught in stride, and prompted by the Spirit, I went to strike up a conversation and perhaps offer him some food. I told him I was visiting from LA and asked if perhaps he wouldn’t mind giving me some pointers to the city. He responded sure no problem and told me his name was John. His friend Roger saw us talking and tagged along; we walked down the street for some Subway. We talked about the struggles with the economy and how hard it was to hold down a job. Then we talked about guns and how Roger shot a .45 magnum and how I couldn’t hit a thing with the magnum because the recoil was furious. John told me I needed to steady my wrist with the other hand lest the kickback might snap it. It was a rather enjoyable lunch with my two new friends.

I went on my way to Pike Place, home to the famous Farmers Market, and was able to visit the many vendors there who were selling homemade goods. The people were once again very amicable and probably sold me on some items because of their personalities alone. I could support the faces and names behind them. One woman named Lauri even gave me a map of the city and pointed me to the first original Starbucks down the street:

I got the exclusive gift cards that feature the original Starbucks logo that you cannot find anywhere else. I’m not a big coffee drinker, so it looks like they won’t remain in my hands for long…

Anyways, it’s time to sign off. The rain is about to hit the smooth streets of downtown–the sun was just here on loan–and I’m going to write for a bit before I meet up with another couple at a Thai place for dinner. If you ever get a chance, go visit Seattle–it rocks like Nirvana.

Thanks for reading, and keep warm in body and spirit.

-MY

7:41

My friend Earl passed away earlier tonight. I just got the news from my pastor through email. It reads, “Earl went home to be with the Lord at 7:41pm this evening.” I don’t know how I feel. My heart is heavy. It just seemed like yesterday we were sitting at church, talking about the upcoming UCLA basketball season.

I can’t say that I’m totally surprised. He had been losing his health the past few weeks. But I thought that he’d at least pull through this year. Maybe it was the weather change. His body was as frail as ever. It’s just unfortunate.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to say my proper farewell. I wish I could have told him how he made me smile with his stories and jokes and sharp basketball knowledge. Then again, I know I’ll get to see him again one day and tell him in person.

We will always remember how you made us smile in the time you were here. God bless you, Earl. You’re with the angels now.

Waking Up To Dreams

I had a good night’s sleep last night. In fact, it was the best I’ve had all week since I was so tired. You know it’s good when you have a lot of weird dreams. The dream that stood out the most, the one I guess I can really recall at this point, is the one in which I’m staying up at some old grandma’s house. I’m talking to her and a bunch of her old “girlfriends” about raising kids and how to run a family. What the…?

Man, you know you’re getting old when even in your dreams you are talking to old people about adult subjects.

Speaking of dreams, if you haven’t seen it yet, please go watch Inception. I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I can easily say that it is the best movie I’ve seen this year–hands down.

The Finer Things

No, I’m not talking about the shiny round objects or brand new toys or things that come packaged in pretty wrapping.

I’m talking about the little moments that you’ll look back on when you’re eighty, when the highlights of your life spin in the theater of your near-absent mind like an old cinematic reel, and you’re like, “Damn, those were the days that really counted.”

It’s times like last night where you and your friends get together and throw a random ghetto barbeque with 5 dollar steaks from Albertson’s and a juicy 16 pound watermelon. It’s playing an intense game of Settlers with competitive friends who were willing to sacrifice all their cards just to prevent that one guy from winning it all with the longest road. (He won anyway, but not without some heavy consorting and scheming from the self-appointed UN council). It’s then playing a Wii Baseball tournament onto the wee hours of the night, and screaming like little kids when you hit a walk-off to win the La Mirada Bachelors’ World Series.

It’s all quite ridiculous, really. But I’ll cherish and remember these sillier times, times when the soul is learning to breathe again and be free.

Sometimes you get so busy making a living you forget what it means to make a life.

Yeah, money’s important. We need it to survive. But we don’t need it to feel alive.

In fact, the drive for money will eventually choke you out. In the end you’ll just find yourself enslaved to dead presidents.

Money can’t buy joy. Nor can it buy two more roads to snatch the longest road. Damn.