To Be Free

What does it mean to be free? Something we all crave and long for, but may have never taken the time to ponder what it really means. In Judea Jesus talked a lot about freedom at a time when the nation saw nothing of the sort. During this period the jews were under the brutal rule of the Roman empire where death was no rare occurrence. First century Roman and Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote, “The Romans make a desert and call it peace,” and the Romans inscribed on their coins, “peace through victory.” In other words, the way to bring peace is by killing anyone that opposes us or is a threat in anyway. The Romans never hesitated to kill someone they suspected of being an enemy of the state, and it didn’t matter if they may be innocent or not. If they suspected it, they would just kill them. There was no sense of innocent till proven guilty. So we can imagine the confusion of the people when Jesus said, “Whom the son sets free is free indeed.” How could that be possible under the tyranny of the Roman Empire? The only way the Jews saw any chance of freedom was by overthrowing the Romans and kicking them out of Judea. So when Jesus came talking about freedom without overthrowing the Romans, the Jews would have been left either dumbfounded or outraged.

The show A.D. paints a vivid picture of what life was like in Israel (Judea) around the time of Christ and the years following. In the show, there is a Roman Centurion (what we would refer to as a military Captain) named Cornelius that is responsible for carrying out the ruthless bloodshed of the governor – Pontius Pilate. For most of the show he does so without thinking twice or questioning what he is doing. But towards the end he begins to feel that the people he is being told to kill are being wrongfully put to death, and he starts to feel sorrow, guilt, and shame for all that he is doing. One of the last things he was required to do was to execute a servant girl of the governors house by strangling her because she was caught telling another servant about Christ. Something the Romans viewed as treason because Christians are classified as enemies of the state and a threat to the empire. After he performs the execution he breaks down and begins to weep uncontrollably, for he can’t believe he just had to kill someone that did nothing deserving of death. This empathy that begins to build up inside of him ultimately leads to a meeting with Peter the apostle that becomes his conversion to Christianity; something taken from Acts 10. Then immediately following his conversion he has to go lead an escort of a statue of the Roman Emperor into the Temple of the Jews. Something everyone knows will start a riot and cause lots of blood shed. Once he gets to the temple gate he is met by all the Jewish priests and they refuse to move out of the way and let the Romans through, and they are fully aware that their actions may result in being slaughtered. Peter and the disciples come and stand next to the priests and begin to kneel and pray, the priests soon follow and Cornelius begins to do the same. Soon after this act of prayerful defiance, the Jewish Zealots begin to attack the Romans, resulting in an all out battle. Meanwhile, the priests, disciples, and Cornelius never get off their knees. When the fight is over Cornelius can’t believe he is still alive, and even more so that he never had to draw his sword and kill anyone. For the first time in his life he chose not to kill somebody when his job expected him too. Something that only his now found freedom in Christ could bring him.

So what would freedom be in light of Cornelius? A Roman soldier expected to kill anyone that his superiors told him too, then finally building up the courage to say no after his conscious kept begging him to stop. Before Cornelius had his encounter with Peter and gave his life to Christ, he was stuck in a vicious cycle of doing what he hated, knowing he would feel guilt and shame for it. But after his encounter, he is emboldened to finally stop his killing. First he is forgiven, which liberates him from his shame and guilt, then he is emboldened to “go and sin no more.”

The freedom that Christ brings starts with forgiveness, for without it we wouldn’t know the goodness of God. And in order to feel the weight of forgiveness we have to be aware of our wrongdoing. The beauty in the story of Cornelius, is that we can all imagine the weight of guilt that would come if we had to kill people on a daily basis that we felt did nothing deserving of it. The weight of that would be unbearable, so to hear about a God that forgives sins would be more precious than gold. After we have encountered the forgiveness of God and been liberated, we are inevitably inspired and emboldened to refuse the things we once did. This freedom can be obtained no matter what kind of government or kingdom is ruling over us. Christ forgives and he empowers, and it is what made him so attractive and beautiful in a world where oppressive, violent governments were the norm. It is what allowed Christianity to flourish in spite of the persecution attempts to blot it out. The freedom that Christ brings is an internal one that doesn’t hinge on governments or kingdoms, and is one that no one can take away from us.

We all crave freedom in some way. The problem is we often crave a freedom that is out of our control. The Jews all wanted the Romans out, but it didn’t matter how much they wanted it, it never came. The Jewish-Roman war from 66-70 AD was the result of a Jewish revolutionary effort to end Roman rule in Judea, but ended in the annihilation of the Jewish temple and a Jewish exile that lasted nearly 2,000 years. It wasn’t until 1948 after the Jewish holocaust that they could finally return and call it home. It is fascinating that Christ chose to come into the world at the time and place that he did. A time when Jews were itching for a Messiah to come and restore the strength of Israel and drive out the Romans. But to everyone’s surprise, when the Messiah did come, he came with a message of, “instead of worrying about a freedom that is out of your control, worry about one that is in your control, one that is not contingent on worldly affairs.” It doesn’t matter if we are serving a life sentence behind bars, living in a land of persecution, or in the “freest” of places like America. We all long to be free, to be forgiven for all the hurt we have ever brought into the world, either to ourselves or to others, and to be inspired and emboldened to get out of the vicious cycle of doing things we hate that make us feel guilt and shame. Even America, “the land of the free,” has it’s share of oppression. Think of the stronghold depression, pornography, sexual promiscuity, divorce, political corruption, and many other things has on our culture. Real freedom doesn’t come from man. Only God can truly set someone free, and nothing can ever take that away.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Joys of Struggle

What is something that makes you feel like, “if I only had ‘that’ I would be happy?” How often have we felt this desire or drive to obtain things we think will make us happy, but often leave us unfulfilled or unsatisfied once it is “ours.” How do we get ourselves in this vicious cycle? Think about this, a few years ago, Hollywood actress Winona Ryder was caught stealing clothes from a clothing store in downtown Hollywood. Now why would someone who makes millions of dollars a year feel the need to steal? Is she unsatisfied with her millions of dollars? Does she need more money to be happy? What it really comes down to is the age old question, “Is it the journey or the destination?” We think if we are able to obtain enough money that it will eliminate struggle in our lives, and in turn, make us happy, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Why would our hearts be full of wants and desires that we think will make us happy if they don’t? Was God just being cruel when he created us? Is it just a misuse of something good in the human nature? As a skateboarder, imagine if I was so set on learning kickflips, that I got depressed over it and told myself, “if I could just learn kickflips I would be happy.” Then once I learned how to kickflip would I just be satisfied and never need to learn any other trick? of course not. Once I learned kickflips it would be time to start the next struggle of learning another trick. Skateboarding is a serious of struggle and accomplishment, and that’s where the high comes from that makes it so addicting. Without the struggle of trial and error, and constantly failing and picking yourself up and trying again, skateboarding loses all appeal and becomes boring. The joy is in the struggle and the process, not so much in landing tricks. Without the struggle landing tricks wouldn’t be as exhilarating.

There is something about the human condition that craves and thrives in struggle, and when we get to a place where we have no struggle, we often find ourselves grasping for it, often in unhealthy ways because we are unaware of our need for it. When Winona Ryder became a millionaire, the struggle for money and fame was no longer there, so she had to find a new struggle to put herself in (I.E. Stealing clothes). If we think the joy is in the destination, we will always be let down and a little bewildered. If we live our lives thinking that if we could just obtain this one thing, and the struggle will finally be over and will then experience true happiness at last! We will constantly be disappointed. It is just not the way we are wired. We were created to struggle, and it is important to be aware of this so we can create healthy ways of doing so. Otherwise we will always be chasing a new fling, a new job, a higher standard of living, maybe even take up stealing clothes, and nothing will ever feel like enough.

Live in the struggle and thrive in it, don’t seek to eradicate it, for it is essential to growth. In coffee and wine, the plants that are the most stressed and have the most struggle, are the ones that produce the highest quality drinks. The human spirit is no different. Embrace the struggle, it shapes us into much more beautiful people, full of life with a much higher capacity to love.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

Sorrow Turned to Joy

The other day, a couple of friends and I were at a skate park in the rougher part of Sac trying to have a good session and film some tricks as usual. Everyone was pushing each other and rolling away from some crazy tricks, it was a great time. And about half way through the session, this little kid named James (probably around 7 or 8 years old) shows up wearing basketball shoes with a pretty messed up outdated board that looked like it had been passed down like 3 or 4 times over the course of ten plus years, and starts rolling around with us. This kid was just learning how to ride a skateboard and was full of questions, “Hey guys, how do you roll in? How do make the board come off the ground? Are these good wheels to have?” I thought it was pretty cute and humorous. He was just an innocent little kid that was fascinated with skateboarding and wanted to learn everything he could about it and get good at it.

Then all of a sudden 4 kids from the neighborhood show up to the park just to terrorize. They were all elementary school age, and all had that hood mentality of “the quality of a man is determined by how many people you can beat up and how much of a punk you can be.” They were throwing glass into the middle of the park, talking about who they can beat up, and they didn’t want to move when we told them to so we can try our tricks, “because a real man doesn’t let anyone tell them what to do.” It seemed their whole purpose was to wreak havoc on the world. James would let a couple of them ride his board and then all the sudden one of them started punching him for whatever reason we were unaware of, and started throwing rocks at him, which made him cry and leave the park for a while. His dad was in a different part of the park with James’ sister. It was one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever witnessed. James was such a sweet kid that just wanted to skate and love people. Luckily we were able to chase the hoodlums off the park, and shortly after James came back and started skating around again. As I was sitting there watching him cruise around the park on this beat up old board having the time of his life. I thought to myself, “man I have to try and do something for this kid to make up for the agony he just had to endure.” Then it occurred to me that I had a complete board in the trunk of my car that was still in pretty good shape (a lot better shape than that ragged thing he was riding). So I went and got it and asked him to try it out and tell me what he thought of it. After he took a lap around the park, he comes to me and says, “wow, its so good!” I told him, “rad, you can have it.” As soon as he heard that his face was filled with disbelief and says to me, “no way! are you serious? I’m not letting anyone ride this one, I’m gonna make sure I take good care of it.” And the rest of the time he was there he was just glowing. It was one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced at a skate park. Just seeing how his worst day at a skate park turned into his best day. Because he endured a momentary affliction, he was blessed with something that would last him a long time.

As I meditated on this moment, it occurred to me that sometimes in life we go through hard, difficult times, and we may ask ourselves, “how can this be happening to me?” But as I witnessed with James, blessing often comes that turns the sorrow into joy. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Life is full of glimpses of this reality. As we saw with James, his agony lasted but a moment, but the joy that followed will last so much longer that it utterly fails in comparison. C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Great Divorce, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory… And that is why…the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.'” This essentially sums up this story, God redeems our sufferings and turns them into a glory. The beauty of knowing God is that even though we suffer and have to go through difficult times, the reality of heaven is that it works backwards and turns those into joys.

Posted in Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Little Drummer (Skater) Boy


Christmas time is here, so Christmas songs are being played everywhere. I remember last December when I was working at Starbucks, the song “Little Drummer Boy” came on and I had one of those, “Ah Ha” moments. A song I had heard a hundred times, but never really paid attention to the lyrics or understood what the song was about, all the sudden struck me. Look at the lyrics:

Come They told me/ A new born king to see/ Our finest gifts we bring/ To lay before the king/ So to honor Him/ When we come/// Little Baby/ I am a poor boy too/ I have no gift to bring/ That’s fit to give our king/ Shall I play for you/ On my Drum/ Mary nodded/ The Ox and Lamb kept time/ I played my drum for Him/ I played my best for Him/Then He smiled at me/ Me and my drum.

I love the imagery of this song. A poor boy that loves to play the drums desires to give a gift to the newborn king. He has no money or possessions so the only gift he can give is a performance of his talent. He plays His best for Him and in return the king remarkably smiles back with joy. Pondering this it occurred to me how often we neglect the fact that our God delights in our talents and loves to see us do our best in the things he created us to do. God created us to have talents and to be good at things, so when he sees us do them at our best, it brings Him joy. Talents and skills can be something we do to bless the Lord of the universe, how amazing is that?

As I was at work listening to this song it made me think of how we can do this with skateboarding. Every time we get on a board we have the opportunity to skate our best for Him and bring a smile to His face. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.” Whatever we do, we can do it for Jesus and worship and serve Him through it. Worshipping God doesn’t always have to take place in a church or from reading the Bible. We can serve God in everything that we do, so if you have nothing to give this Christmas, get out and skate your heart out for the good Lord and bring a smile to the newborn King.

Posted in Skate Devos | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrate the Uncomfortable


Getting better at skateboarding can be very uncomfortable and unsettling. Trying a new trick usually takes many roll ups and battles within our mind before we work up the courage to go for it. The first try is always the hardest, because it is the most uncertain. We have of an idea of how it will go, but we have no way of really knowing until we try it and get a feel for it. Something I love and hate about skateboarding is the discomfort that comes from trying new things, and when I can’t overcome the battle within my mind to at least give the trick a couple tries, it ruins me and makes me feel awful. If I am committed to becoming the best skateboarder I can than I have to do things that make me uncomfortable, sometimes I can push through it and sometimes I can’t. If we want to get better at something we have to do things that push us beyond our comfort levels. Discomfort is a good sign, it is a sign that we are getting better and reaching toward our goals.

I’ve noticed in my life that I often base my decisions on which one is the most comfortable, but when we look at the life of Jesus, He is often doing the exact opposite. He never saw discomfort as something to be avoided, but something to be embraced. There is a story in the New Testament where Jesus is invited into a home with some religious leaders for the sole purpose of seeing if he will heal a man with dropsy on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was supposed to be a day where nobody was supposed to do any work, and somewhere along the way healing came to be seen as work. Jesus knowing what he was getting himself into, heals the man and says to the religious leaders, “Which of you having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Jesus knew that this invitation to come into this home was a setup, He knew that he was walking into a very uncomfortable circumstance. An even better example is the night before Jesus was to be betrayed and gruesomely crucified on a cross; scripture says in Luke 22:44 that he was sweating blood and in agony for what he was about to endure. Jesus could have left Jerusalem and ran away that night, but he chose not too because His decisions weren’t based on what brings the most comfort, but what brings the most good. Doing the right thing is often uncomfortable. If we chose to just do what was comfortable for us, we would never do the right thing and we would never grow as individuals.

If we want to be a better skateboarder and be a better human, we have to learn to do things that make us uncomfortable. Discomfort should be welcomed, not pushed aside or avoided, for it is a sign that we are growing and becoming better at what we do. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those find it are few.” Becoming better at something and doing the right thing is hard and is often uncomfortable, but the fulfillment of seeing the good that comes as a result is worth it. Growing as individuals and getting better at the things we love is uncomfortable, and should be something to be celebrated instead of shunned.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Wisdom From a Dying Friend

Matt and I

Monday – April 25th I had to say goodbye to one of the best dudes I’ve ever had the privilege to call my friend. It all started for me when I got a phone call from my friend Rick that Matt was in a vegetative state and is most likely going to die in the next couple of days. I couldn’t believe it. One of my best friends and favorite people is going to die? I drove down there that day to see him in the hospital, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There lied someone I spent the better part of my childhood with practically dead. I would put my hand on him and talk to him and his breathing would change like he was excited to hear my voice. He could barely open his eyes from time to time, and he was hardly moving and the only sound he would make was a groan. Hope was bleak. And then a week and a half later he was dead.

The saddest part about all this is that I hadn’t talked to Matt in three years and I hadn’t seen him in four. For the longest time I didn’t really have the resources to make it down to Victorville (where I grew up), but for the last 5 months before he died I did, and I kept feeling that I should make the trip down there to see him and all my other friends down there, but I always talked myself out of it and put it off. And now he’s gone and I’ll never have that opportunity again. I’ll never hear his goofy, contagious laugh ever again, and I’ll never see him float through the air on his skateboard like he was part feather ever again. The moment has forever passed.

At the funeral I noticed that this was a common feeling for a lot of people that knew him. Many people came up and talked about how they wish they would have made the time to see him more before he died. Life got in the way and they kept putting it off, and now it’s too late. It was sad to see how so many of us with the same regret – we cared more for the things that didn’t really matter much in the end. For me, instead of making the time to go see him, I was too busy spending that time filming for a video part and trying to make money, stuff that is fleeting and won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind and the living will take it to heart.” When we lose someone we care about, we realize real quickly what is important in life. It’s not our job, our bank account, our popularity, our accomplishments, etc.; it’s the people we care about. And not only is it about the people we care about, but the God that cares for us. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Not only did God demonstrate the greatest act of love ever known in human history by dying the death we deserved, but he calls us his friends. Jesus also says in John 10:10, “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In the Bible we see a God that is always making time for us; always speaking and always pursuing. We make time for people because we see our God doing the same thing. 

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…. I will declare to them on that day, depart from me I never knew you.” I had the realization through this whole experience as to why someone would not know Christ and have to hear the words, “depart from me I never knew you.” It is because we made excuses and put it off and eventually it became too late, just like me and so many others in regard to failing to make the time for Matt while he was still living. When Matt died, a lot of us were filled with regret for not making the time for him, and when we die, I hope none of us are filled with regret for failing to make the time for God.  

All of our lives are slowly coming to an end, and we too easily get caught up in things that don’t matter much when our best friends or family members are laying in a hospital bed about to die. Death is a wake up call that gets us to realize what is truly important in life. Never hesitate or procrastinate to see someone you care about, and most importantly, never hesitate or procrastinate to know your father in heaven. It is the people and our God that are the only things that are really lasting in this dying earth. Everything else is fleeting and will burn up in the end.

Here’s a video of Matt Yarbrough. He was my favorite person to watch skate. He had the best style of anyone I’ve ever met. He was also the most genuine, loving, happiest person I have probably ever met. When I was around him I felt a lot less likely to get upset or frustrated, because in all the years I knew him, I don’t think I ever saw him get mad. He was like a shield against all negative feelings and emotions. The picture above was us in high school when we were about 15 and 16. My mom had taken us to a skatepark about an hour away and after a while she went and got us nachos. My mom being a mom wanted to take a picture and document the day, and Matt, being the person he was had a mouth full of food and saw it as an opportunity to make us laugh. He was a good dude and one of my favorite people to be around.

Rest in peace my brother. When my time comes to go be with the good Lord I hope you’re there to greet me. Love you dog.


Posted in Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joy is Strength


I was with some Camp Royal guys at Venice Beach skatepark the other day filming skate footage and an interview for a video promotion they have been working on. We got there at 7:00am to get some good lighting with the sunrise and also to beat the crowds. When we got there they wanted to film me setting up a new board near the boardwalk, and as I was sitting there with the camera man setting up my board, this guy Kaleb came up and started talking to us. First thing he said to us was, “hey sorry to interrupt, but I saw the camera and was wondering what was going on and was hoping to get on camera.” Kaleb definitely wasn’t a shy person. He hung out with us pretty much the whole time we were over there filming. He asked me if I was pro, what the purpose of this was, and what I was going to do with my old board. When I told him I would give him my old board his face lit up with excitement and said to me, ”aww thank you so much, I cracked my board the other day and needed a new one, I can’t wait to set this up!” As I sat there talking to him while I was setting up my new board he told me that he had been homeless on the beach for about a year. When I saw him he didn’t seem homeless, he had a clean sweatshirt on, his hair was cut pretty short, and it didn’t seem like it was too long ago that he had his last shower. I asked him about his family and he told me that his mom is in a convalescent home that can’t really do anything for him and that he has a sister that lives not to far from Venice beach but doesn’t want anything to do with him. And he told me that there was an older guy that’s a local at the skate park that gives him some work to do around his house in order for him to eat. As I sat there listening to his story I was shocked, for one: he didn’t look homeless, and two: he was one of the happiest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. His situation didn’t seem to affect his attitude or outlook on life at all.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Kaleb was the perfect example of this, his joy and attitude wasn’t based on circumstance, but surpassed it. Kaleb could have easily been full of bitterness and blamed others for his situation, but he chose not too. I saw the joy of the Lord in Him, a joy that surpasses all human understanding, and that is what made my encounter with him such a highlight. Kaleb is an inspiration that no matter what happens to us in life, we can smile and have joy in our hearts, “For the joy of the Lord is our strength,” not our circumstances.

Posted in Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment