Celebrating Differences

I recently had the privilege of staying with my brother and his wife along with their six kids (ranging from 12 years old to 4 months) and every time I spend time with them, I am always fascinated by all the little personalities. One is highly aware of everything around her and can navigate people to her home from just about anywhere; one is a human encyclopedia and can tell you everything from just about anything; one is a little goofball with no filter that says whatever comes to mind that keeps everyone around her laughing; and one is a little performer that at age 2 makes everything into a microphone to sing into and will get on top of a table and start singing and dancing. So many different personalities going on to keep you laughing, entertained, informed, and on the right path. Every time I spend time with my brother and his family I can’t help but be amazed by how unique God has made every human being and how we all bring something different to the family and to society.

But what if… we all started to believe Gabrielle (the goofball) is the true way to live and be in the world, and Emrich (the little performer) is everything that is wrong with the world? On the individual or family level, this hardly happens, but if a bunch of people like Gabrielle got together and called themselves the goofball party and began believing and preaching that they were the true way, and a bunch of people like Emrich got together and called themselves the Performer party and did the same, then all the sudden we have something that is a lot more common. One side is sanctified as “thee way” and the other is demonized as everything that is wrong with the world.

In Church History, there are many times when one person or group of people, started teaching something that wasn’t commonly believed by the Church at large. It would create some rifts and controversy, then the church would call a council and have all the bishops come together and they would hash it out and come to a conclusion. Sometimes it would end peacefully, and sometimes it would create a Church split, then another, and then another, and now there are almost as many church denominations and non-denominations as there are people. This is something the world, and even Christians look to and think, “why can’t Christians get along.” All the church splits are looked at with disdain and carry a level of disgrace. To an extent it is, but what if this is something that at times could be celebrated? We all know people are made very uniquely, and act, believe, and worship in many different ways, so if we can celebrate the wide range of human personalities on a individual level, why can’t we on a communal level? We don’t all have to have the same exact church service with all the same doctrines and traditions, but we can still be friends and learn from each other.

In this world, we generally fall into one camp or the other, and blame whatever camp we are not in for everything that is wrong with the world. If you’re a Democrat, it’s the Republicans. If you are a conservative, it’s the liberals. If you’re LGBT its the evangelicals, if you’re Protestant it’s the Catholics, and vice versa for all of the above. Every side and every church thinks they are the true and best way to live, and sees little to no good in anyone that disagrees with them. This comes with it the notion that, “if everybody could just be more like me, the world would be a much a better place.” But without anyone that opposes us, or contradicts are set ways, we are much less able to grow and develop.

We have all heard the saying, “opposites attract,” when it comes to dating. My wife and I are very opposite in how we handle conflict, communicate, interact with people, and sometimes even how we see the world. Because I am always being challenged and contradicted by my wife, I have learned a lot of things about myself that I would otherwise be blind to. If I was married to someone that was just like me in every way, then I would just have everything that I already believed about myself and the world reflected back at me and I would never grow or learn anything. If it wasn’t for the differences, and the contradictions, I would never know the truth about myself. We generally are blind to the fact or refuse to admit that there is any fault or flaw in us, and what may be even worst, is that people are more often than not afraid to tell us. So we can easily go on living our whole life thinking we never do anything wrong or annoying and that we have it all together. Therefore becoming more and more set in our ways and never feeling the need to work on ourselves.

The animated action-comedy movie Megamind with Will Ferrell, is a story about a hero and a villain battling it out as always, but in this story the villain actually defeats the hero and the villain goes on to live happily ever after… Or so we would think. Not much time goes by before he becomes depressed and miserable because he has no one to challenge him. He even tries to create his own super hero to fight him, but it doesn’t end up working out like he thought. This is the logical conclusion if we all got what we think we wanted and lived in some utopia where nobody ever disagrees with us or challenges us… depressed and miserable.

Imagine a world where we could celebrate differences and embrace all people. Even within Christianity there are many personalities and differences of opinion, and it is ok! it is expected. If God made us all so different, then His church will also be different and have a certain amount of variety. There is no truest, or best way to worship and believe in our faith, and the same goes for politics, and world-views. As soon as we start believing that we got it figured out and have grasped “thee way,” we have stopped listening to people that don’t believe and act like us, which in turn makes us no longer teachable. People and differences need to be celebrated if we want to keep learning and developing as individuals and as a society. If we can celebrate the uniqueness of the human race on the individual level (for example my brother’s six kids), then why can’t we on the communal level with religion, faith, politics, and world views?

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The Core

Make it Our Own blog

I was looking through a transworld skate magazine the other day and came across this quote:

Skateboarding starts and ends with you…  No one owns what skateboarding is and no one can control it because it’s yours, not theirs. You have the power to make it whatever you want. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Don’t worry about the olympics. Don’t worry about the big corporations taking over. None of that matters as long as you take it back to where you started; just you and your skateboard rolling solo…. skateboarding will be just fine. -Jamie owens, Editor in Chief – Transworld Magazine.

There always seems to be this concern or fear among skateboarders (especially those who have been in it for a while) that the brotherhood and the core values in skateboarding is dying, and that all the corporate money being thrown into it is the problem. Skateboarding has grown a lot in the last twenty years, skateparks are everywhere, big corporations like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have tapped into the industry, and it is soon to be in the olympics. With all the athletic companies in skateboarding now, it has come a long way from the tight knit, punk, outcast persona that it began as, and has grown into something more diverse, clean cut and sporty. It is not uncommon anymore to see a skateboarder dressed like he just came from the golf course or the basketball gym, which is the image of skateboarding that is marketed to us by all the big companies. Legendary pro skateboarder Andrew Reynolds said in an interview, “A bunch of rich people are trying to figure out how to make skateboarding into a boring jock spot, but f…. that, I’m going to keep it raw, and I hope you do too.” Where is skateboarding going? Will the brotherhood be lost? Has it strayed too far from its roots? Or has it just gotten so big and accessible that it has become more diverse with many different styles. When something is small, there is a greater sense of, “we all need to stick together.” But when it gets big, and a lot of people are doing it, that naturally begins to dwindle a little bit and factions or cliques begin to split off from the mainstream. But no matter what happens to skateboarding, it can never be damaged at the core – just you and your board.

Just about every culture and subculture that has grown substantially from its humble beginnings has the concern of “where is it going?” We see beauty of what it has been in the past, and fear what it may become in the future. Churches and Christians have throughout history, had this same concern. Churches have done lots of good things in the world (I.E. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement), but they have also done lots of bad things. Many times in history, churches and pastors with lots of influence have made Christ and Christianity out to be hateful, argumentative, judgmental, and sometimes even violent. Paul says in Romans 2:24 to the Christians in Rome, “The Name of God is discredited among the nations because of you.” After the Orlando shooting at a gay night club in 2016, a Baptist preacher in Sacramento praised the death of the 50 people that were massacred and preached that this was God’s divine judgement. Along with all the “God hates fags” picketers and the protesters at soldiers’ funerals demonizing them as products of God’s judgment; people have done a number on our culture to give the perception that God is against them, and delights to see them suffer. Why would anyone find a God or any person like that appealing? I don’t think anyone at a PRIDE event who encountered the Westboro picketers said to themselves, “yeah let me lay my life down for this God who hates me and my community and wants to see us all suffer.” With all the Preachers out there that make God out to be a mean, angry, harsh being, it can be hard to have a positive perception of Him. When Christianity first started, there was a lot more unity within the movement. But when anything gets big, there becomes various perceptions and styles within it, and it can be hard to sift through it all. But when Christ becomes something personal and we make it something of our own, it doesn’t matter how ugly someone makes it look, or what anyone tries to say what an ideal Christian looks or acts like. We know how beautiful it is and no one can take that away from us. No matter what the public opinion or perception is of Jesus, it can never be damaged at it’s core, Just you and Him struggling through life together.

Nobody has to do anything the same as anyone else. As a skateboarder, I don’t have to look, act, talk, skate like anyone. It doesn’t matter what Nike says a skateboarder should be like or look like, and no matter where skateboarding goes as a whole, it’s never going to make me stop skateboarding. I have the freedom to find my own style and do whatever I like that is the best reflection of me within it. In the same way, no matter how hateful or mean people make the Christian God out to be, and make it seem like all Christians have to be like they are, it’s never going to make me turn away from Him. I have my own perception of Jesus and nobody can take that away from me. I know how loving, generous, just, and inclusive He is. It doesn’t have to affect me when someone tells me I need to hate anyone or think less of someone because of their political beliefs, sexual orientation, race, gender, and so on. In whatever we do or are passionate about, there will always be people that make it look like, “only a crazy person would get involved in that.” The people who are the loudest and most outrageous, are the ones that will generally get the most media coverage. Thereby creating a public perception of a broad culture based on one small group of people. Every activity or belief system comes with a culture, and if we don’t develop our own way of going about being a part of it, we will be too easily corrupted by the outrageous and the rich and powerful.

Reflection Questions:

When we see people like the Westboro baptist church and the preacher from Sacramento, spreading a message of extreme hate and judgment, it can be tempting to hate them for it. If we do so, we play the same game and recreate the problem. How can play a different game and solve the problem instead of recreate it?

When we see one extreme getting lots of media coverage that puts a bad taste in our mouth, it can be easy to swing to the opposite extreme. Instead of a conservative fundamentalist, we can become a liberal fundamentalist, which isn’t any better. There is a time to be black and white with clear boundaries, and there is a time to reach out and accept people for who they are. How can we maintain balance here and not swing to one extreme?

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Frustrated Love

Why is skateboarding so frustrating? How often do we see people yelling and throwing their skateboards around at a skate park? I love it, it is my greatest passion, but it also frustrates me to no end. Nothing aggravates me and tests my patience like skateboarding; but at the same time, nothing brings me more joy and is more life giving than skateboarding. skating with friends, pushing myself to new levels, filming and making edits, the energy and hype at the spot when people are landing tricks; there is nothing like it. So why does something I love so much have its moments that make me frustrated and cause me to feel like a maniac? The truth is because I love it, for if I didn’t, it wouldn’t matter to me if I ever landed anything, got any better, or got that clip I have been wanting. Frustration reveals passion and love. My wife and I deal with the same thing with each other. We fight and get flustered with each other more than any other person, and it is because we love each other more than any other person. If I never became frustrated when I skated or with my wife, then that is an indicator that I don’t really care.

God responds in very similar ways with his passion… people. In Jeremiah 31:3 He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” To love anything to that degree means there are going to be times of frustration, and we see this many times in the Bible. For instance, in the Old Testament when Israel refuses to stop worshipping idols. His people are carving images out of wood and expecting these creations of their own hands to care for their well being. When God has done so many things to prove to them that He is their God who loves them and takes care of all their needs. He sends prophet after prophet to help them understand the futility of their actions, but nothing seems to get through to them.

Jesus, being the most loving, patient, kind person that ever walked the earth, also had moments of frustration with people. One example is when he walks into the temple, and is grieved that His people have made it into a place of business. He begins overturning tables and whipping people and shouts, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves!” Even the disciples, the people we would say had the most intimate relationship with Him, experienced a frustrated Jesus. In Luke 9:40 a man brings his demon possessed son to Jesus after his disciples failed to cast him out, and Jesus says to them, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” Not what we would expect from the all loving savior of the world. Then there are the Pharisees and the religious leaders that Jesus reserved his strongest frustrations for, calling them names such as: whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, blind guides, and the list goes on. They are often viewed as the people that Jesus was against, due to the fact they were always trying to catch him slipping so they could build a case against Him and have him killed. They were the leaders of the current status quo that Jesus came to challenge, and they hated him for it. They were so entrenched in their ways that they could not see any other perspectives, and were unable to feel compassion for people. They had an appearance of having it all together – saying, doing, and believing all the right things, but it was all a tactic for power and political gain. The strong language that the pharisees received from Jesus is not because He couldn’t stand them and needed to put them in their place, but because He loved them dearly and wanted what was best for them. As we see in Matthew 23:37 when Jesus comes to a viewpoint of the city of Jerusalem and says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” All the harshness and name calling came out of a deep love that had become frustrated because he wanted better for them.

I have often wondered after I have a meltdown from skating, “why does skateboarding make me so crazy?” And the answer is of course, because I love it and it gives me life. Everything we hold with high value, that is life giving to us, makes us a little crazy at times. The frustration is the test that defines how committed we are. Many people get frustrated with their marriages and get divorced, or with skateboarding and quit, or with Jesus and stop believing. The people that are really committed work through the frustrations and allow the passion to grow and take root, to the point where quitting would feel like severing a limb. Eric Koston (legendary pro skater) said, “skateboarding feels so a part of me, that for me to quit would be like cutting off my arm.” That is a passion that has withstood many frustrated tests. As when God says to Israel in the same breath that He is expressing His frustrations with their idolatry, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16). No matter how frustrated He gets with us, He is never going to give up on us. The frustration is the indicator of strong, deeply rooted love. Without those frustrated moments, it probably means we don’t really care, or we could take it or leave it. But God’s love for us is clearly not one of, “I could take it or leave it.” His frustrations with people in the scriptures show us how deep His love is for humanity, and His love for us is the example of how we love others. Their is a healthy, normal amount of frustration that comes when we really love someone or something, but it is important to remember why we are becoming frustrated so we don’t end up doing something out of anger that we will regret.

Reflection Questions:

When you become frustrated with skateboarding because you are not skating how you feel like you should be, either you’re having an off day, or “last week I was landing this trick every try and now I can even do it.” How would it change you’re reaction if you kept in mind that the reason I am getting frustrated is because I love skateboarding so much?

If you have ever had a significant other or a best friend that frustrated you for some reason, how would the reaction change if you kept in mind that it is because you care so much that you are becoming frustrated?

How can we have a healthy amount of frustration with the things we love the most and not become mean or angry to the point where we do something we regret?

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Thrive in the 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 series of struggles and accomplishments, 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 then we will experience true happiness at last! We will constantly be disappointed. It is just not the way we are wired. To live is 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 learn to 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.

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Sorrow Turned to Joy

The other day, a couple of friends and I were at a skate park in the rougher part of Sacramento having a grand ole time. About half way through the session though, 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. It seemed their whole purpose was to wreak havoc on the world. They kept asking James if they could ride his board and he would let them, but then all of the sudden one of them started punching him for whatever reason and started throwing rocks at him, which made him cry and leave the park for a while. He went and found his dad that was in a different part of the park with his 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 says to me, “wow, its so good!” I responded,  “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.

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. Another example of this is that of child birth; a woman has to endure some of the worst pain of their life in order to give birth to a baby, but once they are holding their precious child they immediately forget the terrible suffering they just had to endure to bring him or her into the world. 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.

 

Reflection Questions:

As the cliche goes, “no pain, no gain.” Can you think of a time when something good or some kind of progress came out of some suffering you had to endure? How does this shape your thoughts and feelings on suffering? Should it always be something we shake our fists up at God for?

 

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Little Drummer (Skater) Boy

drummerboy3

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.

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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.

Reflection Questions:

What are some things that are uncomfortable for you that you often run from and avoid at all costs? What would happen if you chose to do them instead of run? How would it build your character? Is there a possibility that it could even do something good for other people as well?

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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.

 

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Joy is Strength

Venice

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.

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Out of the Mouth of Infants

mouth of Babes

There’s a park by my mom’s house that I always skate that’s just a couple rails and a box. I was there the other day and this little kid named Matthew came and started cruising around on his skateboard and talking to me. It seemed like he had just started getting into it and couldn’t have been older than 10 years old. The funny part about him is that he kept telling me to do tricks but he didn’t have the language to express the tricks he wanted me to do. Instead of saying “boardslide the rail,” he would say, “Go on the rail in the middle of your board.” Then I would go do it, and he would be like, “WOAH, YOU DID THE WHOLE THING IN THE MIDDLE!” One time I did a kickflip to a boardslide and he said something like, “WOAH, YOU DID A FLIP ONTO THE MIDDLE!” And he kept asking me to race him through the park, and I kept trying tricks along the way, and eventually he told me that if I tried a trick along the way and messed up I would automatically win. Imagine Olympic races with those rules.

The funny thing about this experience is that when we think about people to skate with that will push us to get better, we usually think of people that are better than us. But the reactions I would get from this kid was so amusing that I was having a blast trying things just to see what it would be. Matthew was pushing me based on the amount of excitement he was expressing, and it rubbed off on me and made me more excited to skate and try things.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.” This kid was a Godsend, the joy in him and the joy that arose in me as a result was unmatched to anything I have ever encountered. Psalm 8:2 says, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have ordained strength.” Out of the mouth and smiles of Matthew I saw the Lord expressing the joy and love he has for myself and all his children. Never fail to give attention to the little ones, there may be a Matthew encounter just waiting to happen.

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