Preventable Tragedy.

Since the unexpected and shocking death of Anthony Bourdain, I’ve begun seeing articles about depression and suicide. Among these articles, the phrase “preventable tragedy” has been coming up on more than one occasion, and I’ve begun giving it some thought. The following is just a reflection on how I’ve engaged with depression and a period of going through suicidal thoughts earlier on in life—I recommend speaking with a friend, a pastor, or a medical professional if you’re finding yourself in this season currently; there is no shame in needing help because there is richness in seeking it out, and it can become a deeply meaningful experience for the one who is able to care for and sit with you through it.

After passing through a period of depression in high school, I heard something during college about how people who go through depression never really leave it behind (though they do get to a place where it is completely under control apart from moments here and there). I think this has been true of my own experience; many times, I blog to manage the oncoming waves of depression, but other than that, I rarely notice it. However, it is exactly these waves that betray the nature of depression’s influence on a person’s life. As far as it’s a “preventable tragedy,” I think it takes a strong community and faith, hope, and love to truly prevent victims from taking their own lives. But many times, the suicides we see in our communities are “surprising” or “unexpected,” and the victim is described as “cheerful,” “friendly,” and “caring.” In my experience, when the wave of depression hits, it begins a process of going down a dark and lonely rabbit trail. No matter how objectively well things are going, it is as if I am being led down a path of my own failures, shortcomings, and weaknesses, and instead of rejecting these images of myself, I become more and more enamored of them. I desire to see myself as coming up short. I want to explore why I am the worst. I can’t help but agree that I am worthless. I begin to shut myself up at home, I talk myself out of relying on friendships because 1) they never reach out to me (which is likely false), 2) I don’t want to burden them, 3) if they can’t even notice, then they probably aren’t going to care much if I do open up to them. The terrifying thing is that these thoughts can be compacted within a short span of fifteen minutes (or even less). Within fifteen minutes, a lifetime of relationship, friendship, and trust can evaporate. There is no way to prevent this kind of thing, and depression sequesters its victims as a quiet assassin. It crushes any hope of rescue, convinces me that resistance is futile, and controls my perspective. Someone with depression might be doing well for a season, but depression, like the wave you never quite anticipate at the beach, could wipe him out in an instant.

This is not to say that there isn’t hope for all my friends out there who are in the long, trench warfare with depression—I stand with you and will always be willing to pray for you. However, the only thing that I can confidently say has helped manage my depression (to the point where I have a healthy enough relationship with it) is slow, consistent, and meaningful relationship with God and with those around me. God has provided me the works of journaling and writing to turn depression into an advantage; the poems and blog posts that have healed me the most are the ones written in pursuit of exorcising depression from my life, deepening my appreciation for how God works even in the small, dark details of my life. With regards to my friends, I have a handful who are my safeguard and my resistance to the three thoughts that depression plants in me, and I show them off proudly as proof to depression that it’s not true—people do care, and I just need to be brave enough to admit that I need help. But above all, it’s life with God that grounds victory against depression, and I think this poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is perfect:

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

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Selfish.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been compartmentalizing my life more than I’ve had in a while. My grandma was admitted to a hospital a few weeks back on account of some internal colon bleeding, and she’s recently been spending her time in a nursing home. Because of finals, I’ve been compressing the situation down to a manageable size because I know if I let it get to me, I won’t be able to do the work that I’m supposed to do. But in the midst of that, I’ve also been wondering about how selfish it is to do something like compartmentalize. My grandma is looking at the tail end of her time on Earth, and all I can do is worry about getting my grades in order? The thought of it made me concerned about the patterns of prioritization I was setting.

Now that finals are over, I thought I would be able to relax. But on the very night of finals, I was asked to rush home and move my bed downstairs because my grandma was coming home from the nursing home. With a head full of steam, I stomped up the stairs and violently began lifting my bed up and taking it downstairs by myself, feeling annoyed that what I thought was going to be a breather turned into more work. As I was getting more frustrated by my grandpa making suggestions without being able to really help, I lost focus and my foot came down awkwardly on one of the steps, causing me to tweak my ankle and fall down the stairs with the bed in hot pursuit. It’s been a long time since that kind of language has left my lips. Nursing my ankle, I was furious with the situation, frustrated by my grandpa living in the past and trying to exert some kind of influence at the nursing home, and exhausted from all the emotional suppression I had been doing for the sake of stress management. Life felt like Murphy’s Law on steroids – everything I touched seemed to just turn out poorly. I felt the apathy of depression stalking me, reminding me what it was like to feel completely helpless.

As I picked myself up and finished the job running on pure adrenaline, I realized that my whole attitude towards my grandma’s health circumstances was entirely selfish. I realized how an ethics of duty is bereft of the tender compassion that characterizes virtuous living – the kind of life that flows from manifesting the life of Christ. I lived by duty, grudgingly doing the right things and following the rules of what ought to be done, yet all the while, I bemoaned my circumstance and staged numerous pity parties for myself. I didn’t consider the fact that my parents have been attending to my grandma while working full-time jobs. I didn’t consider that my grandpa was doing all he knew to try and cope with the situation of his wife dying. I have been utterly self-absorbed these past few weeks, and I now see an ugly reflection staring back at me.

As my temper cooled from spraining my ankle and finishing up the tasks I needed to do, I found myself reflecting and seeing that I didn’t even deserve the situation I was in. My ankle sprain could have been so much worse, but God had mercy on me. I could have lost my grandmother during finals, but instead, I’ve been given an opportunity to serve her and love her well. I had the opportunity to stay up really late and sit in sympathy with one of my best friends who has also hit a bit of a rough patch. The season I have been going through is no less vibrant than before—I just put on selfish glasses along the way, and I forgot to consider the mercies of God and His deliverance in the past, present, and future. Thank You, Jesus, that You live in me (even when it doesn’t seem like it from the outside) and that You love me.

Remembering.

As he looked around the room, he saw faces. Unsure of how familiar they were, he tried to scan through the names he knew, but found he knew none. He felt his heart start to race, but what was it to race? Was it to erase? Was it to regain pace? Was it to replace? In a daze, he sat down, only to find he was laying on his stomach. He blinked. The room went black-white, and he squirmed right, throwing himself at anything solid; he needed to hold onto something, but he just kept falling in place. Losing composure, he tried to yell, but quickly bent over, ashamed at the thought of his own voice. What did he sound like? Could he speak? Should he speak? Becoming more and more disturbed by his own existence, he felt he did not belong to a world such as this. Everything went right so long as he remained a shadow. He detracted from the world, a negative, a minus, a subtraction, a distraction, a destruction, a reduction. The opposite of light, he hardly knew what light was besides the blinding he encountered now. What was it to live well? Well, live first, then worry about living well. Could he live? Should he live? His sight was a thousand mirrors, each bending the light until his sense of self was reflected a thousand times over, facing right, left, and up. If he looked down, he would drown in recognition. He hated what he knew and who he knew, but all he knew was to appear cheerful and the only person he knew was himself. He thought about jumping, but talking himself down from the ledge was followed by visions of the suffering he still had to endure because that’s all he could see ahead of him. The paper stacks, silver coins, moving metal objects, spaces filled with linen rectangles and wool sheets exhausted him. He was tired of what he desired. Loathing hate, his joy rang hollow as he found himself empty of substance, content, and content; he was substantially discontent with the moving parts of his consciousness. In a soft whisper, he echoed the sound of a still night, seeing stars for the first time as understanding. He didn’t know what to say to make things right, didn’t know if things had gone wrong, but he still felt the wave of apologies washing him, bathing him, caressing him. Shame and embarrassment were his solace; joy and delight were his guilt-ridden tribulation.

He remembered the smiles, the miles, the trials, the styles of living, of giving himself to another. Sunny nights and still days created canvases of nostalgia for paint to artfully express the colors in memories. Sense was lost as sensing remained; emotions warped as motion reigned. A flower, a card, the ocean, a tree, a road, the lake, the fulfilling silence of comfort and enough. He had lost it all before him, but before him now, he used to take it for granite, etching fondness into stone to carry him through the rest of the way home. At night when one pair of eyes reflected blue light back into the dark, he would remember. He would sigh, then he would sleep, a smile tracing itself upon the memories that his heart would keep.

Halfway Done, Halfway Full.

As the youths say, it’s been a minute. With the last “Submit Assignment” button I’d ever see during the Fall 2017 semester, I continued to breathe normally. No sigh of relief, no deep inhale of accomplishment. Perhaps it was because I realized that this semester was a balance between guilt, apologies, and hard work to get my mind off of the first two.

I numbed myself quite a bit to what I was going through this semester. I tried to bury my experience of anxiety, stress, and insecurity beneath more work than I could handle. Many times, waves of guilt and fear would pass through me as I wondered about the health of my friendships, especially with those who lived farther away. Would they even notice if I couldn’t keep up with them as frequently? Would they understand? Would they care to check up on me once in a while? Oftentimes, it felt like I was forgotten. But for those of you who remembered me (you know who you are), I love you all, and I honestly couldn’t have gotten through the darker parts of this semester without you reaching out.

There were moments when I felt like my pursuits were entirely self-centered; nothing was harder to listen to than hearing my old Chinese school principal’s wife tell my mom that she had many years of hard work ahead of her because she saw that I wouldn’t be able to provide for my parents. Each dinner with my parents that I missed made me feel like I was just a tenant in the house rather than a son, and it was no fault of my parents’. They have been beyond supportive, encouraging, and understanding during this time, and if I ever make it to parenthood, I hope to be half as loving as they are.

I thought about how I ought to apologize to my professors with the work that I was turning in, unwilling to rely on excuses about having four classes (three of which were philosophy classes) but secretly hoping that they might understand my circumstance. At times, it felt like I needed more time, but at others, it felt like there wasn’t enough time in the world to help me out of my predicament. It felt like I needed to find my way to more fortitude and just stop being a baby about things; people have worked far harder than I have and have done far better despite their circumstances.

Beyond all this, this semester has made me grateful for the friends that I’ve made at Biola. Shoutouts to Heritage Cafe—there are just too many great people who have passed through those sliding glass doors. It won’t be the same without some of you, but I do hope to see you around! Come visit me at the RSA desk in the library if you can. To Pity Hugs: you’ve been a constant anchor for my mental health, indulging the moments when my sense of humor would betray the helplessness of my perceived situation. I’m excited for what y’all are going to do in the years to come. To Carl: thank you for mentoring me without even trying to; I find myself constantly thinking about how you would respond in circumstances where I’m interacting with people, and it’s a blessing just trying to see the world from your perspective. To Luke: I will never forget the legend of the Friendsgiving Turkey and the moment I received the gospel of brown butter. Really excited to see where you end up, and if all does not pan out, just wait for me a little and we’ll start that coffee&beer place. To Tim: it’s always amazing being in your classes. Thanks for being gracious and encouraging all the time and for teaching in a way that is clear and straightforward. Your passion for the truth really does come across in your teaching.

Despite feeling like I had my soul snatched by the sixty-plus pages I had to churn out, reflection has given me a chance to be grateful. God has been faithful in walking alongside me this semester, as He always is, and He’s brought me into a deeper appreciation for spending time with Him as well as being with His people. This has been the hardest semester of my life, and yet at the end of it, I feel a quiet confidence that the Lord knows what He has planned for me. Through many moments of going through the program for myself, He has been gracious to bring me to a place of mindfulness both of Him and of His will for me. As I look onwards to what He has, I just pray that He continues to keep me faithful to the path He has set me on and reveal His mercies to me day by day.

Hebrews 13:15-16 “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Farewell to the Scottage.

The past four days, I’ve had the pleasure of being in Colorado with some close friends. Though it’s been a while since I’ve actively seen patterns in my life, the theme of this trip was a resounding “learn.”  Being in Estes Park at the Scottage – a wonder in its own right – was as close to being in a different world as I could be, and I realized that there was learning to be done as soon as I got off the airplane.

  • The elevation will snatch your breath away from you as soon as you try to try, leaving you breathlessly in awe of the majesty surrounding you.
  • Hummingbirds will land on your finger if you are situated where they usually perch to drink greedily from hummingbird feeders.
  • Male hummingbirds make obnoxious noises (as do grasshoppers when they fly).
  • Aspen leaves sound cool when the wind blows through them.
  • You can actually see stars at night (and if you’re lucky, lightning striking far-off mountains).
  • A wide variety of mushrooms grow everywhere; you can eat the puff-balls, but avoid the other stuff.
  • Wearing a rain jacket over bare skin is surprisingly helpful for staying cheery despite tumbles into a frigid river.
  • Tubing is awesome, even if you fall in the river.
  • Sunscreen is no jodan.
  • Putting band-aids on and then duct-taping over it will help you ignore popped blisters over the course of the nine-and-a-half mile hike (according to Apple Health) to the top of Mount Ida.
  • You can actually hike to the literal top of mountains.
  • The continental divide is the place where if water falls on one side, it goes out to the Pacific; if it falls on the other side, it goes out to the Atlantic.
  • Puzzles are sometimes necessarily group efforts.
  • It can actually hail on you near the top of mountains.
  • Rocks provide great cover from wind, if you can find them in just the right configuration.
  • Pika are amazing.
  • Nice-u and nice-u janai.
  • Maple syrup is somehow better warm.
  • “Warm” can be pronounced like “arm” with a “w,” or “war” with an “m.”
  • Hammock World grows on you.
  • Never try to re-make the Chosen One; once you throw it across the river, leave its memory behind to become a legacy lest you be pierced by a false prophet – huh?

The list goes on and on; I’m far too tired to record the rest of the factual knowledge I learned.  However, beyond the random facts here and there that I learned, I learned a bit more about myself.  During the hike up Mount Ida, I spent quite a bit of time slowly making my way up the mountain.  Having never been exposed to such biting wind and dry, cold, oxygen-deprived conditions, I found myself switching between being able to socialize and enjoy the hike and mechanically putting one foot in front of the other until the temporary goals that I set were reached, agonizing at each moment about holding back the rest of the group.  The times I found myself alone were spent deep in earnest, complaining prayer with pushback from myself regarding the fortune of my circumstances.  I went through the joy of being in creation and being humbled by God’s creation to despising the many stones that had made the ascent up the mountain possible in the first place.  Having nearly destroyed my ankles at least fifteen times, the only anchor I had was that at the end, I would look back on it as blessing.  And I do now consider it a blessing!  I realized how fickle I was in relating to God on that hike, and at the end of the day, all I could say was that God has provided just enough strength for each step, bringing companions to me when the morale was low.  It was quite a bit more soul-baring than I expected to encounter on the mountaintop.  The best part about all this was that I had read Psalm 61:1-3 the night before the hike, which reads:

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite wisdom in drawing my soul closer to You.

However, the lesson that I count myself most blessed to learn was encouragement, patience, and hospitality.  During the hikes that I went on, I encountered an abundance of encouragement in the subtlest of ways; sometimes it would be a direct, “you’re doing great!” but other times, it would just be a welcome into casual conversation that forgot the rigor of the hike.  The provision of home-cooked meals day in and day out was coupled with a joy to serve that I had rarely seen in my life, and it made the mealtimes that much more life-giving.  When mushroom-hunting, it was always a pleasure being guided to a large mushroom waiting to be discovered despite never finding many on my own.  The list, once again, goes on and on, but who can complain about such an abundance of God’s nature being manifested in part within men and women?  The people I met and spent time with at the Scottage were all tremendous in spirit and gentle in nature, and I’m sorry to have left so early.  Nevertheless, being at the Scottage was, is, and will forever be one of my fondest memories.

“Oh, the Lord is good to me

and so I thank the Lord

For giving me the mountain trails,

the parents help that never fails

The Lord is good to me.”

Immediate Thoughts on Dunkirk.

If you haven’t watched Dunkirk yet, I’d suggest watching before reading on. (If you can spare the coin, watch it in IMAX – it’ll make you feel that much more.)

*spoilers incoming*

Continue reading “Immediate Thoughts on Dunkirk.”

Union Rescue Mission.

It was a day filled with humbling and reflection.  I woke up at 7 am (on a weekend – that’s gotta be a record) to go train at Checkmat La Habra at 8 am, and I began my day with some good old butt-kicking.  And by butt-kicking, I mean my butt was being kicked (figuratively, because it’s a grappling sport) by pretty much every training partner I sparred with.  However, I’m grateful to my teammates for teaching me things here and there to help me improve my game; they really do a good job of making me feel like we’re not fighting with one another, but fighting for one another.  After six or seven sparring sessions, I rushed home, showered, and raced off to Union Rescue Mission.

When I got there – in a surprisingly quick twenty-eight minutes – I immediately began noticing the streets were more and more populated with the homeless, and I began to realize that this wasn’t just some walk-in-the-park, go-home-and-never-think-about-it-again type of outreach event.  There are actually lives that are depending on URM to get by day to day.  I saw Andrew in the underground parking, and we eventually found our way to the kitchen (after much confusion about where the other folks were and where we were actually serving), and we began to put on our gloves, hairnets, and aprons.  The first thing we were asked to do was to remove bags of taco meat or enchilada meat from steaming water and empty out the contents into metal trays.  Bag after bag was dumped in as we were helped by a resident whom we’ll call Denny (just in case there are legal issues with putting his real name).  Denny told us about how he enrolled himself in the rehab program at URM and said that they were giving him really good help with it, suggesting that if we knew anyone who needed help with addiction, this was a good place to bring them; I let him know that we didn’t know anyone who’d need the service at the moment.  Eventually, we looked up and saw the others had arrived, and we said hi to them.  Once we finished emptying the meat into the trays, they had us crack eggs into buckets, and Daniel and Andrew and I joked around a little as we were doing so – they’d later use the eggs for fried rice.  After that, I left Andrew and Daniel and went over to Denny to ask him if I could help with anything, and we got to making pizzas that they would be serving the next day.  I mainly sprinkled the beef sausage on top of the pizzas, and then Denny would pass me another pizza to cover – we must have made about fifty pizzas that were to be frozen before we were finished! Once the pizzas were taken care of, one of the main chefs motioned for me to ask another chef how I could help, and I found myself deep frying potstickers.  He demonstrated once, gave me some tips on how to know when to remove them and how to alternate sides of the deep fryer, and then he left for a little bit.  When he came back, he said, “You already got the hang of it!” and I laughed, thinking, “This is practically in my blood.”  I kept frying up potstickers until 1 pm, which was when our break started.

During break, Daniel, Alan, and Caleb found a basketball court, so naturally, we all got to hooping.  After a while, some of the residents at the URM center came in, and we got some three-on-threes going.  Daniel, Alan, and a resident we’ll call Russ were on one team, and Andrew, a resident we’ll call Kenyon, and I were on the other.  It was nice because we didn’t really have a chance to interact with the people being served by URM from the kitchen, and so even just being united by “ball is life” was an opportunity to learn about them a little bit and to just spend time with them.  We didn’t keep count, but Russ definitely torched our team.

After the break, we got back to the kitchen, and Alan, Daniel, and I were asked to shovel some chicken fried rice into metal trays which would be used for dinner.  Eventually, we plastic-wrapped the containers and then put a sheet of foil on top to keep them warm for dinner.  From here, I went back to opening up bags of enchilada meat, and Daniel and Alan were helping to wrap up enchiladas and label them.  When the clock hit the three o’ clock mark, we left.

What I realized from my time at URM was how casually it could all be done, and how frequently I had to be mindful of how I approached serving the homeless.  It almost seemed too brutal to make it a one-and-done situation, and I have a strong desire to come back next week or another week and continue serving and building relationships with the people working in the kitchen.  In a place where we’re directly serving the homeless, it’s difficult to continue philosophizing about reasons why they’re homeless or making sure that the theology was right as we walked past verses posted on the walls – being in such direct service demands a complete focus on producing a thoughtfully prepared product and a complete removal of self.  I saw how much less privileged people on Skid Row were than me, and in serving at URM, I found that there was very little thought spared for myself and my own comfort – there’s just really no space for it.  When we serve out of the overflow of knowing God’s goodness in our lives, whatever pride or success or self-approval that might come in the way completely disappears because, in contrast with the hardships our neighbors have to endure, there’s no longer any value left in those things; in the meantime, compassion reigns.  Matthew 25:35-40 came to mind, which reads: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”  

There’s still so much to be done, and yes, we can sit back and ponder (usually judgmentally and with little compassion) how the homeless got into the situations that they’re in.  However, there’s far more to be learned just by serving them and investing bit by bit in their lives.

This song was playing as I was driving to URM, and I think it’s fitting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TCh31xg4vA

June 27, 2017 – Oreo O’s.

STORY TIME: As some of you know, Oreo O’s had their re-release June 23rd, and ever since then, I’ve been hitting up a Walmart each day in hot pursuit of my childhood memories. Tonight, I decided to put my education to use and put on my researching hat, utilizing walmart.com’s handy product finder to search the nearby Walmart’s for my beloved O’s. Lo and behold, it said “In Stock” at the store closest to me. HOWEVER, when I clicked it, all that came up was a grey OUT OF STOCK message. Retreating to the search bar, I clicked on the Walmart near Biola and the Walmart that was second-closest to me in the opposite direction. Aisle A-16. Aisle A-14. THEY GAVE AISLES. I told my fellow Oreo O’s enthusiast Jason Huang and the OG finder of Oreo O’s at his local Walmart Terrance T Chang that I was embarking on my quest. Godspeed, they said. Godspeed indeed. I ran down the stairs, prompting a question from my mom about what was happening. DESTINY IS HAPPENING, MOTHER. I pushed my trusty MPV to its limit racing out of the garage. Which Walmart do I choose? It’s getting close to closing time, after all. Then, it hit me. BIOLA. There was a measure of providence at play this evening. I raced towards Alondra, turned, raced towards Valley View, turned, and pressed on ahead. It was within reach. Would I be disappointed, or would it be complete fulfillment of my June 23rd desires? Chris Yuen, in his famous “Question of the Week” during Sunday school, came to mind as I answered “Oreo O’s” in response to “What is your favorite cereal?” Thank you, Chris. I looked at the Walmart that lay before me – Neighborhood Market. I’ve got a good feeling about this. I rush to park, parking in a spot with some words on the ground. As I left, I saw that the words were, “Clean Air Vehicle Only.” I grappled for two seconds with just going in and rushing out only to trust that the O’s would be waiting for me, wanting me to play it safe and not get into trouble with the law. I rushed into another parking space, outwalking a couple ahead of me. Aisle A-16. There are no A’s here. But there is an aisle 16. And there is cereal in that aisle. I began to smile but realized it and tried to avoid smiling in a Walmart, as I am told that Walmarts are not the best places to be (to those people, I say HA! Walmart is the safe haven of cereal delights…I hope). My head is literally pounding now as I fight back disappointment and the anxious squealing of the kid inside. I scan the cereal aisle, walking to the very end. Nothing. Maybe I missed it? I walk back the other way. Nothing. A group of people start talking about which cereal to get, and that’s when I spot them. Hiding next to Pops and Cocoa Pebbles (decent cereals in their own right) were my GOAL, my FULFILLMENT. I could hardly believe that these people were talking about Cinnamon Toast Crunch – haven’t you had that available to you for the past ten years?! WHAT ABOUT OREO O’S?!? I reach deep into the shadows that tried to forbid our long overdue love, and pulled out a box. And then another. And then another, for remembrance’s sake. And then I snagged some whole milk because it’s the most flavorful and I saw that Hilary Duff drank whole milk, and she looked wonderful. I want to look wonderful too. My journey was over. I finally secured my O’s. Thank you, Manager David White, for stocking Oreo O’s in your Walmart – you have delivered precious childhood memories unto me. If you’re in the area, 14865 Telegraph Rd., La Mirada, CA 90638 is the store to hit. I would keep them all to myself, but, like the Gospel, it ought not be held in but shared with everyone around me. Thanks for being a part of my journey.

Journey to the Center of Reality, i.

Having finished up my first year of studying philosophy at Talbot, I thought it would be helpful to write out a few takeaways from the year.  It’s been a challenging academic year, to be sure, but I can confidently say that every moment has been rich with experience and learning and humbling and grace.

  1. Taking school seriously is actually kind of fun.
  2. People will talk to me differently because I’m in seminary.
  3. I’m a poor evangelist, but that is not my identity (it’s just an accidental property I have heh).  I am conscious of this and I need to bring it to God. He will be faithful in guiding me to those He wants me to reach.
  4. There is a way to disagree without offending the other party.
  5. Spiritual disciplines are legitimately helpful.
  6. Philosophy is a mind-molding kind of subject; it often does work in the background of the mind (if such there be).
  7. Church must be far and away greater than what we think it ought to be – in more ways than one.
  8. Old friendships are real anchors.
  9. New friendships are constantly surprising.
  10. Family is so often taken for granted.
  11. I’ve become really self-conscious about the content I produce and rely less and less on a blog to just introspect externally; this is not a positive trend.
  12. Calvinism is not the only theology (gasp) but it IS the best one 😉 kidding! Theological perspectives, in some respects, are held in virtue of personal experience of relationship with and to God.
  13. Being kind is not reserved just for non-Christians (as surprising as the idea of speaking with a kind Christian seems to be nowadays); we must also be kind to the brothers and sisters we meet with regularly lest we take them for granted (see 10).
  14. Pastoring is a serious, thankless job; a special level of maturity and spiritual discernment is required for it. Love your pastors! As humans, they’re trying the hardest and battling the most within themselves to examine their own lives first and be faithful to what they’ve been called to.
  15. There are frequently moments where God opens the eyes to exceeding beauty – how many have I missed?
  16. Granting things in a discussion and still finding a way to make a case is more powerful than complete and utter blindness to the opposition.
  17. The library is actually a wonderful place to be, especially in the study rooms
  18. I’m running out of things (even though there are probably sooo many more), so the last one that comes to mind is: reality is a big thing – I’m gonna need an Atlas (heh). Grateful for professors who have allowed me to come to office hours with very few intellectually rigorous questions, but have grounded my continuing in the program.

Looking forward to seeing what the next year will hold!

Revisiting May 23rd.

I’m not even certain how to begin writing this, but perhaps sincerity will do the speaking.  Three years after the Isla Vista shooting, I’m finding myself thinking about what transpired in my beloved college town.  This is the first time I’m finding myself not in Santa Barbara thinking about what happened, and the sorrow, shock, and surrealism of a tragedy striking far too close have been replaced by a longing to understand.  Frustrated confusion mingled with silence are all I have left this year.  The obvious question then was: why? But the more compelling question now is: how?  How did a life become so distraught, so self-consumed, so unrecognizable to humanity?

On the night of the shooting, I found myself reading up on what had happened, watching the intensely disturbing YouTube video, and reading the “manifesto” that had been written, and I remember thinking that this was the work of a person who deeply misunderstood the source of value in life.  Tonight, I re-read many portions of the manifesto, and I still think that intuition was correct.  Perhaps the more religious among us would be inclined to chalk the enormity up to “man’s fallen nature,” and I don’t disagree.  Nevertheless, I’m not certain that I’m fully persuaded by a description that seems so bereft of the utter darkness that we witnessed.  It just doesn’t seem like a complete enough description given the implicit resignation of the phrase; it seems more like the manifestation of radical despair and unmet desires.  Upon reading the manifesto tonight, I was met with conflicting pity and disgust, yet there was also a part of me that wondered if our world hadn’t groomed such a tragedy from the beginning.  Obviously I am not trying to justify what the killer did nor am I pinning the blame on society; this was truly a case of senseless, hopeless violence.  Yet, the questions are overflowing.  Did he have friends to help him through these troubled thoughts?  How did his parents not perceive the issue from an early age, when he seemed to have begun his deviation from living a full, vibrant life?  What could we collectively have done differently?

I’m not entirely sure I’ve had enough time to understand – it may very well be the case that his story is not one to be understood.  But more than anything, I find my heart broken once again for the families who lost their loved ones in the most unnatural way.  I will never know the depth of suffering that the friends of the deceased endure every year around this time.  All I can do – all we can do – is be faithful each year to honor the memories of those whose lives were claimed and be reminded to love those around me with kindness and with respect.  I believe that the end is drawing ever closer, and so I must believe that a loud voice from the throne will eventually say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And yet, in the middle of an especially dark night, I am finding it difficult to bear the burden of tears that have yet to be wiped. 

Come, Lord Jesus, come.