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 came and started cruising around and talking to me. It seemed like he had just started getting into it and couldn’t have been older than 10 years old. His name was Matthew and this kid made my day.

He didn’t have the language to express the tricks he wanted me to do, but he kept asking me to do things in a fun way. 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 kind of reaction I was going to get. 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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Little Homies

Meaning blog 2

I was at my local park the other day, and after I skated around for a bit I went to the back of the park so I could work on some flatground tricks by myself. There were only 2 other people at the park so I thought a solo flatground session would be feasible. But shortly after I started this kid (probably 11 or 12 years old) came over and started skating with me. At first I was a little annoyed and said things to myself like, “why do you have to come over here right when I start,” and, “you have the whole park, go skate something else.” Not my finest hour, I know. As we skated for a while I started to enjoy the company, and as I watched this kid, I noticed that every time he would try a trick he would look up at me, either to see if I was watching or if I was going to respond with praise or not.

As I sat there watching him it reminded me of when I was that age, and how much I loved the praise and approval of all the older skaters. When there was someone that was older that was really good that gave me praise for my skating, it was like the best feeling in the world. When I realized that I tried to keep expressing praise for the tricks that he was doing, and I could tell that it meant a lot to him.

As I skated with this kid for a bit, I realized that for some reason we were all created to need some type of assurance that we are doing good and that we mean something in the world. That void usually gets somewhat filled by our parents, then when get a little older it’s by people we look up to, then the last step should be our Father in heaven. Acts 17:27 says, “That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.” That longing for assurance that our lives mean something was put in us in order for us to feel our way to God – the only one that truly fills that void. All the steps along the way (parents and role-models) are just glimpses of something better.

Along with this, me being annoyed at first by the kid that wanted to skate with me is a misrepresentation of the Christ in me. A cool thing about this is that we get to show people what our God is like. When we extend that praise and assurance that we have experienced from Christ to others, we get to give people a glimpse of what it means to know Christ. Be quick to express praise to the little homies at the skate park, it may be the only expression of Christ they see that day.

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The People

Uniquely Common

Skateboarding can often bring out the animal in me. When I skate I tend to get in the zone and tune out everything and everyone around me. If I’m at a crowded skate park, people often feel like a nuisance – just something in my way. I want to push myself and get better, and if anyone gets in the way of that I want to get angry. As I have gotten older I have gotten better at taming the animal in me, but it still can be a struggle for me.

I help out with a skate church in vacaville sometimes and for a while every time I went I would get real aggressive, cut everyone off, and be way too into my own skating. I always left feeling guilty for the way I acted and often felt like that place was probably better off without me. I eventually just started taking weeks off because even though I had a desire to chill out, as soon as I got there I would just get all into it and not care about anyone else. I hoped that if I took breaks from going that I would come back more chill at some point, but it never seemed to happen.

The church we meet at is moving to a new building, and the other day we had a last night in the building service with all the skate ramps out. And at the end we were all skating and I was kind of taking it easy and watching everyone else, and as I was sitting there watching, I started thinking about all these skate kids that come every week (sometimes twice if they go to youth group, which a lot of them do) to skate and hear a little bit of the Word of God. I remember when I was their age I didn’t know anybody that skated that had any involvement in anything church related, and here we are in a little indoor skate park set up full of skate kids that come to this thing and youth group every week. I couldn’t help thinking of how beautiful this place has been and how foolish it is to care more about my tricks than the people. A lot of these kids have little direction from their families, and for the most part, skateboarding is the only real family or meaning they have in the world. A lot of them have no money and their parents don’t buy them anything, so every time I give them some of my old stuff they’re always super grateful. Every time I show up some of them are always eager to show me what tricks they learned that week and I can tell that a lot of them look up to me. It’s crazy how someone can be a role model to kids just because of what they can do on a skateboard. After meditating on this for a while I began to feel remorse for all the times I couldn’t go to these skate church nights without getting angry and frustrated for everyone being in my way.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about for the last several months that really hit me that night, is that everything we do is never about the thing. God didn’t give me skateboarding to just focus on being the best I can and pushing myself, but to love the people I come into contact with through it and show the love of Christ. We should push ourselves and always try to exceed our personal best, but never at the cost of making it more important than the people. In John 13:35, Jesus tells his disciples, “By this all will know that you are my disciples… if you have love for one another,” notice he didn’t say, “by the things you do and how good you are at them.” Do whatever it is you do well, but love the people you meet through it even better.

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Surprised to be Alive

Screen shot 2015-10-26 at 11.20.59 AM

I have had a hurt ankle for about a month and a half now, and at times it can drive me a little crazy. Being hurt and not able to skate can often feel like a prison. Skateboarding is a big part of who I am and how I express myself, without it I don’t feel like I can truly be me. Being a skateboarder for 16 years, I’ve had to deal with the challenge of being hurt quite a few times. Throughout the years I have usually responded to injury with shock and amazement, as if some strange injustice has happened to me. I’ve come to realize though that the real surprise and amazement is when I can walk away from any skate park or skate spot without some kind of injury. First of all, skateboarding is a pretty injury prone activity, and secondly, it is not something that I am entitled too. Just like everything else in this world, skateboarding had a starting point, it didn’t always exist. Everyday that we are rewarded the luxury of being able to ride a skateboard is a huge surprise and a blessing. Our perspective shouldn’t be, “what a surprise and shock,” when we can’t skate, but when we can.

I heard someone say the other day, “don’t be surprised that people die, be surprised that people are still living.” When you think about all the chaos, disease, and things that can go dramatically wrong in life, it is a shock that anyone makes it very long. People die at 30 and people are surprised that they died so young, but the real surprise is that they lived so long. Just like skateboarding, life is dangerous, lots of things can go wrong, and everyday we live that nothing does is a surprise, not the opposite. Everyday that we can live, laugh, and learn is a blessing and should amaze us that we can do it at all. Nobody is entitled to life, for it didn’t always exist and it doesn’t have to exist.

I hear old people say a lot, “When you get to be my age, just waking up is a surprise.” If we all adopted that mentality life would be a lot sweeter. When we realize that we are not entitled to anything, everyday becomes like Christmas morning. Psalm 16:2 says, “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you.” Everything we have is intentionally crafted and presented to us by a loving heavenly father. Everyday that we can live, and everyday that we can skate is a gift, it is not owed to us. So next time you find yourself not able to skate or in some kind of hardship, don’t be surprised that life is a little hard at the moment, be thankful for all the days that were good, for we are not owed or entitled to any of it.

 

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“Let the Children Come”

ethiopia1-2-2

I was at a skate park today and there was these two little kids (probably no older than 8) just hanging out and asking everyone if they can use their board. I said no at first because I had just got there and was eager to skate, and for whatever reason everyone else was telling them no too. After I had skated for a while I finally agreed to let one of them ride my board, and when he finally got his hands on one it brought the biggest smile to my face as I watched him ride around the park.

For one he was better than I thought he was. He could ride down and up all the banks and  turn decent enough not to fall off the board when he went around sharp corners. But what really made me laugh was his lack of care to anything going on around him. He was so excited to be on a board he didn’t pay any attention to anything around him. My friend Steven went to try something down the stairs and as soon he hit the ground a board went flying at him because the kid was right behind him. We both couldn’t help but to just start cracking up laughing. He was so young and excited to be on a board, it was amusing how much skate park etiquette didn’t matter.

As I sat there watching him, it became funny to me how I first didn’t want to give my board up, and then how happy it made me when I finally did. It reminded me of all the times Jesus was interrupted during his life and the good that always came from it. Most (if not all) the miracles Jesus performed during his ministry happened when he was on his way somewhere or busy doing something. It was the interruptions in His life that really fueled his ministry.

In Matthew 19:13-15, people bring children to Jesus to pray for them, but the disciples tell them that Jesus can’t see them. But as a result, Jesus gets upset and says to His disciples, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of God.” I picture the disciples in this scenario sitting there watching Jesus with the children and saying to themselves, “look how funny they are, why did we ever turn them away,” just how I felt with the kid at the skate park.

A lot of the time it’s in the interruptions and in those moments that first seem like hassles that we often see God move the most. I probably made that kids day and created a memory that he may never forget, and to think I first saw him as a nuisance that was in the way of my skating. Jesus says in Matthew 25:37-40, “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 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.” We show our love for God by how we choose to love people. Sometimes it seems like a hassle or a nuisance, but once we do it, we will be glad we did. Not only do we live forever with Jesus in Heaven, but we live forever in the people that we make those memories with… when we love people as Christ loves us.  

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