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.

Enter title here.

The green leaves washed in the light of the sun looked yellow; the tree stood in yellow-green silence as the wind tried to get a rise out of it.  An unseen, shapeless, colorless cloud – I really haven’t seen the darn thing – passed in front of the sun as other dirty-white, partially-torn cotton balls (or sick vape clouds) moved briskly along the sky blue belt.  They’re moving faster today than usual.  The smell of brown-sugar coated ribs assaults me from the oven downstairs – just morty fore minutes before charring them on the grill.  I begin to hear myself breathe, and suddenly, I’m enveloped in the sounds coming from the click-clack of my keyboard; my typing slows to try to reduce the noise, but the frustration of words passing me by urges me to sacrifice silence for more prose.  The volume goes up, and the inspiration goes down.  Coming face to face with the spectres of assumed creativity can prove to be quite a humbling task.  It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself free rain (simmer down, I know what I’ve down) over the downpour of literary attempts to create, to opine, to connect, to attribute, to illuminate, to narrate, to embody.  4/12    Kim paper #1 scrawled across a moving cloud reminds me that I’ve finished one of the milestones of this semester – I also need to wipe my window clean.  A bird – probably – flies across my window.  It could have been a bat.  Or a bat.  Or Badtz-Maru.  Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.  A smaller bird – seen this time – flies slower across my window headed in the same direction as the previous blurd (this seems the most genuine way to characterize the previous thing).  I wonder where they’re all headed.  Do they even know?  Maybe it’s the annual meeting of birds in which birds of all feathers come together to resolve their differences in orderly, singsong manners.  The crows and the sparrows would probably have much to reconcile.  I yawn, and I feel somewhere behind my sternum, between my shoulders, right at the point of rising when drawing breath, go dry.  Seventeen more minutes, and then it’s off to the ribs I go; my short, meandering, realistic, pointless, odd narrative is finally at its end as the bed calls for me to lay down and scroll until the ribs scream at me from their foil coffins.