soul food. 2012

“Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Van Zant

I’ve finally had some time to settle down and reflect a bit on the year that was. I’m usually pretty deep in my own head, but believe it or not I wish I had done more reflection this past year. About who I am and who I’m becoming, where I’m going, why I’m chasing after the things I’m chasing after, that sort of thing.

Certainly this past year went by in a flash, and initial indications have me pretty happy at how things turned out. I have no regrets about how 2012 went down. I’ve tried my hand in various things–failed at some, succeeded in some. Sure, I won’t lie, it feels good to reach some of those dreams I’ve had hanging for so long above me. I could probably feel proud about myself. But it’s not so much that.

More than what I did or didn’t achieve, more than anything else I think I’ve had to learn the hard way that character is far more valuable than anything I could ever accomplish. It’s hard to take in, but I had to come to terms with my own fleeting youth. I’m not trying to imply that I’m an old sap or garner sympathy points or anything, but I’m trying to get at this growing awareness that I become more of each decision that I make, whether good or bad, and that the stakes are only getting higher as I mature and take on more responsibilities. It’s at this point that I truly felt like I took a step back this past year. I’ve made some immature and selfish decisions that end up making some things messy further down the road for myself or somebody else. And it’s exactly this, knowing that your decisions aren’t made in a vacuum–they affect everyone else around you, whether or not they are conscious of it–that could cause unnecessary drama or tension in life.

This lesson is nothing new that I hadn’t known or learned before. But for whatever reason, it just seemed to be amplified more loudly in 2012 than in years past. I felt like I was rubbing up against this desperately wild “me” that wanted to cling onto the immaturity and squeeze every ounce of instant gratification. That little devil whispering, “Hey, you only get the chance to do this once before you’re really too old.” (I’m not talking about that YOLO crap–though it might have a little to do with FOMO…) And in a sense, why not, right? It seems so much easier and fun in the moment. Society’s pushing you to do it, people around you all seem to be doing it, even your closest friends are giving you crap for not doing it.

The hard thing is to constantly resist. There’s this little voice that would come in at just the right moment to remind you of who you are and what you’re living for. It’s not to chase after money or skirts or self-glory. It’s about living for a Kingdom that is bigger and greater than yourself and will live on long after my days are done. And I have to trust this is something that will ultimately satisfy me, because God says so–and that’s enough–even when I don’t believe it in the moment. (“Never trade what you know for what you don’t know.”) Yet, it’s scary to realize that I am hearing that voice less, and if I try hard enough, I can even tune him out. Which words will I choose to feed on this year?

I’ve never been much for resolutions because I believe most of them are based on good intention and nothing else. (I even wrote a long allegorical story about it.) Certainly it’s good to have dreams, to have things by which to measure your life. But I believe most of the work needs to be done in the deep. Everyday I have to wake up and make a conscious decision about who to follow (myself, others or God), what to live for, who I want to become. And all this takes much reflection, prayer, study, self-discipline and people who are willing to call you out on your BS. It’s so much easier to just mail it in, clock-in / clock-out, and waste my days away behind the tube. But I don’t want that story–anybody else could write that. I want my life to be great, I want my life to tell something meaningful.

So I guess I’m writing all this to say that we should all take stock of what matters most. Decide on what’s important to you, and be prepared to make some sacrifices and devote your time and energy to it. You become what you study, you study what you love. So love the right things.

I wish you all a wonderful and enlightening 2013. May we all come back at the end of this year and sing of the many great ways we’ve changed the world around us–and how we’ve been changed in the process.

Cheers & blessings,


Grandma’s Chicken

So I just discovered a little gem of a joint last night in the city of Bellflower. My best friend Peter used to work at this place delivering food for them–he was known as “Da Chicken Man” in some neighborhoods–and he kept plugging the place. “Most amazing chicken ever mannnn.” But the last couple attempts resulted in failure. (Store closed early on Halloween…probably one too many sketchy pirates).

But on Saturday, the stars finally aligned. It was me, Petey. Kellie, and JB rollin’ out on a freakishly cold night. When we finally got to the place, on the corner of Alonda and Eucalyptus, I was confused. Inside were tons of spinning machines, and people with baskets folding underwear. (Okay, that was actually the laundromat next door. But it could seriously throw some people off!)

The actual place itself is really nothing more than a hole-in-the-wall. No tables, just six chairs lined against the walls. The counter display was filled with empty trays–except for one that had jars of raw oysters–trays that I’m sure would normally be filled with tons of seafood. The stock had already been consumed by the hunger of the day. On the walls behind the counters was the “menu”–just lines and lines of colorful choices, tempting the wide-eyed unassuming victim with bountiful items: choices like “Jumbo Pack” and “Chuck Wagon” that offer dozens of chicken pieces, potato wedges, rolls, and mac salad. Nope, they definitely don’t beat around the bush.

The people who run the place is a cute, elderly Korean couple. I think we got hooked up because I went with Koreans. (That, and Peter having worked for them before might have helped a bit.) After we ordered, it was the long, eager drive back home. I think I gained 5  pounds just smelling the food–the odor was beastly.

And…yeah I’ll shut up and just let the picture do the talking:

I had trouble moving shortly after the last piece was consumed. I don’t think I breathed for a minute. Oh, and the hot-sauce is crazy. Like just stupid crazy. Please do your stomach and taste buds a favor and check this place out! (But your heart and toilet might not thank you after.)

Prepare for glory–after meals like these, you just might see Jesus a little sooner than you think.


*Pictures courtesy of Yelp.