It's Christmas! Which means a season rich with traditions, responsibilities and fun, unique to each family and individual. For me, it all starts (before Thanksgiving I might add...) with two things: Christmas music and egg nog. And this year, as I was consuming that magical elixir of the holiday season, I examined my egg nog drinking habits and a thought occurred....
Egg nog is terrible for you. Everyone knows it. They try to help by making "low fat" egg nog, but it tastes like nothing more than holiday horchata. So in an effort to stay mildly healthy, instead of drinking a large portion of nog for dessert, when its saturated fat will bloat in my stomach overnight, I take it in little portions: a little in my coffee, maybe a sip after lunch or mixed with milk later. It's a bit healthier and spreads the delight throughout the day. And that's when the thought hit me -- taking in something as awesome as egg nog in smaller portions is a good way to take in God.
We can and should have a set-aside time with God every day (a large cup of egg nog), but inviting Him into our daily lives in little ways throughout the day can be just as rewarding, and maybe even more so (egg nog in the coffee). It's a silly illustration, and God isn't bad for you like egg nog, but the truth is still there. As Brother Lawrence famously said, we can be just as close to God doing the dishes as any other "spiritual" activity (paraphrase).
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” ― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
My first full summer in Southern California, a friend told me about a mystical and elusive spot known as Trestles, at least that's how it sounded to me at the time. Somewhere in San Celemente, CA, you had to walk a long path through the bush to get to the rocky, but worthwhile break with amazingly long rides that my informant claimed was where he learned to pump. Sounds good to me!
I've been, and it lives up to the legend (minus the mythical and elusive part), so I thought I would provide some tips in case you want to visit this famous surf spot.
1. It's a long hike to the break, so bring a bike or skateboard. In actuality, it's not too terribly long, though it's definitely more than the usual parking lot-to-the-sand walk you might be used to. Plus, you want to save all your energy for the fantastic waves you are about to surf.
Bikes, boards, bags. All good for Trestles.
2. Trestles is a rock break, so bring your booties if you have them. On my last visit, my leash came off and, at low tide, it is a LONG walk back over the rocks to retrieve your board.
3. Get there early, as parking fills up quickly. With no official parking lot, Trestles is limited to street parking that sometimes can fill all the way up into the nearby neighborhood. This is another good reason to bring alternate transportation (bike or board).
Rocks make for a bad walk, but great surf.
4. The waves are quite good, and so really good surfers frequent the spot, including a lot of pros that come out of San Clemente with Trestles as their home break. Tread lightly if you are not fully confident in your skills, but don't let it deter you. It is a long beach with plenty of space to spread out if you're not up to surfing the biggest or most crowded spots.
5. Bring lunch, because this break is so fun you're going to want to spend all day there. If all day isn't enough, go camping! San Mateo campground is only a bike ride away from the break, though you have to peddle over a gnarly hill to get there. Still, it beats finding parking!
The last time I was there, the Hurley Pro was going on, which should let you know how good this break is! My friends and I shot a little footage of the experience, including the campground, which you can see here. Or watch some pro footage below from the same weekend!
I've been spending time with some artists lately and heard one of them describe his art as a pursuit and a longing. He said that he used to think he could write a song that would sum it all up, ending the pursuit and satisfying some sort of lack in his life; but later he realized that this would never be the case, and that life would be a never ending pursuit of satiating this nondescript longing.
As an artist myself, I can relate. I have an overwhelming desire to write, tell stories, make music and shoot movies; so much so that any free moment needs to be filled with one of those pursuits. What's worse, is that the ideas keep coming, but the time to flesh them out is rarely there, and so I'm left with a constant feeling that I'm behind and may never catch up. So what would happen if I never told all of those stories, or wrote all of those songs? Would the world be any worse without my art? Would I be any better or worse of a person because of it? Or is all of this just a distraction?
As I listen to men speak about longings, and follow pursuits on paths such as these (or even more "noble" endeavors, like child rearing or finding a spouse), I can't help but think that we're all just looking for Jesus.
There is a longing inside all of us, a God-shaped hole as Audio Adrenaline put it:
Scripture reveals this to us as well:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
- Ecclesiastes 3:11
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you."
- Hebrews 13:5
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Matthew 6:33
Only God satisfies. So why do we endeavor so hard after anything but God? I think the answer is that, when we create, we are acting like God. He is the ultimate Creator, and I would argue my truest moments of creativity come about from God. I've tried writing songs and stories on what was clearly my own volition, and they usually are empty. And then there are times when the words fall from the sky and spill onto the page, as if God lassoed me with some sort of inspirational conduit and shot sparks of creativity into my being. Ask any artist, Christian or not, and he or she will tell you about this experience.
The same applies to fatherhood or serving others...in these cases that seem to provide some sort of satisfaction for our souls, it is because we are acting like God. God is a Father. God sacrificed Himself for us. When we perform these acts, we are imitating our Father, and it feels good.
A beautiful album by All Sons & Daughters.
But will it ever totally satisfy? Is there such a thing as complete satisfaction? The bible speaks of the "fullness of Christ Jesus" -- how does this come about?
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
- Colossians 2:9-10
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
- Ephesians 3:16-19
According to that second verse, we are strengthened with power through the Spirit, so Christ can dwell in our hearts. Then, with a foundation of love, we will have the power to understand how deep Christ's love is, which ends up filling us with the fulness of God. There are a couple key ingredients: love and power through the Holy Spirit.
So if we want to satiate that longing, and attain the fullness of God, we must have Christ dwell within us in love, and ask God for power to understand His love more deeply. It all begins and ends with Christ's love. These verses sum it up well:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I write a song that will move hearts...if I paint a picture that will inspire the masses...if I write a piece that alters the course of history...if I create anything, and have not love, it is only a noisy distraction from the true longing of all our hearts, which is Christ.
They say entitlement is a problem with my generation, and I believe it -- I know I've had my moments. I think you could even say that it is more of a problem amongst Christians. In my mind (and probably the minds of others too), this is the way it works: I serve God, the Creator of everything, and He loves me, so why wouldn't He just make everything work out in my favor? In a way, I can even support this with scripture (Romans 8:28). The problem with this thinking though, is that things don't work out all the time, just the way I want them. And then what do you do?
I was thinking this weekend about how nothing is ever perfect; not in a defeated, self-pitying way, but just realizing that life rarely works out 100% the way I want. For instance, I've wanted to work from home for years, and by work I mean write things I want to write, make music I want to make, shoot movies I want to shoot...and get paid for it! Well, we had a daughter this year and I was able to become a stay-at-home Dad through getting an apartment manager job (an act of God we believe). So now I am here! Staying at home, with the freedom to write! Oh, but there's just this one thing...having an infant is a full-time job! So while it's true that I do have more time than I used to for pursuing creative endeavors, it's not what I expected.
Think back on your life and you may see that things haven't necessarily met your expectations or worked out exactly as you planned. And that's okay. The other thing is that scripture supports this even more:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
- John 16:33
And then God is our Father:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
- Romans 8:15
I know, as a father, that good parenting does not mean giving our daughter everything she wants, whenever she wants it. Actually, that's called bad parenting. What a good parent does is allow his or her child to make mistakes, endure hardships, overcome troubles, which leads to something much more valuable than an easy life: character. As Rick Warren says,
God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.
(If you check out the previous link, it has a little devotional about dealing with suffering.)
So expecting everything in life to work out is a fallacy, a pit, which I have fallen into many times in life. But on this side of Eternity, in a fallen world, how can we expect perfection? Which leads me to another point, one which I'll explore in the next post....
Have you ever been sitting in the lineup and waiting for a set when, out of nowhere, a giant bulge of water comes at you like a miniature tsunami? You're in line for a normal set, but this is something different, breaking farther out and bigger; and so you have to make a split-second decision to either paddle and beat the wave, or sit and duck dive six feet of white water.
You choose Option 1: Paddle, as fast as you can! The wave is growing, becoming dark, ready to double over. You're close, just a few more strokes away! The wave crests and you thrust your board down just in time to avoid taking it on the head. When you come up on the other side of a miracle, you look back and watch boards and heads pop up in a massive pool of sea foam and whitewater, gasping for air and hoping there isn't another one on the way...but there usually is. This is the story of a standout set, my friends, and knowing how to handle these are key for a successful surf session on a big day.
Standout approaching! (photo by @jinheejoung)
Handling standout sets is all about decision making...camp out deep and wait for the standout, or go back and catch a few, hoping the standout doesn't come. I've been on both sides and I'll tell you the results:
THE GOOD THING ABOUT WAITING DEEP is that you'll be safe from rogue waves that clear the lineup, and you might even catch one if you're bold enough to ride a monster. You also may be able to take advantage of the aftermath and have some waves to yourself if the next set allows.
THE BAD PART is that you may end up waiting forever for these standouts, and miss a lot of regular set waves in the process.
THE GOOD THING ABOUT STAYING SHALLOW is that you'll catch the regular set along with everyone else.
THE BAD PART is that you probably won't be in position to beat the standout and will be cleared out along with everyone else.
Taken at El Porto, a spot notorious for standouts. (photo from http://forum.theobelisk.net)
The last time I was in this situation was during the Hurricane Marie swell at Leo Carillo. The standouts were rolling in at 8-10 feet and with a lot of rocks hidden by the lineup, I did not want to miss a duck-dive and go over the falls on one of these. And so what I did was camp out between the regular lineup and standout set. I'd see a standout and paddle out, beating it, and then paddle back to just past the lineup to catch some of those.
The problem with this strategy is that you miss a lot of waves because you're just past the regular break, and you're also living in constant fear that a standout is imminent. It's kind of like a person who builds an underground shelter in fear of a zombie apocalypse, spending a considerable amount of time there, but also tries to live a normal life above ground -- this person will live a halfway-life on both sides.
And so I learned an important lesson that day: DON'T FEAR THE STANDOUT.
The risk, the reward. (photo by @jinheejoung)
I was so stressed paddling back and forth from the lineup to the standouts that I never caught a wave and didn't enjoy any of the epic swell I was receiving. In hindsight, I would have joined the lineup and caught some waves, and should a standout come...held my breath and tried to dive deep! (some tips for duck diving here)
It was a silly thing to live in fear between the lineups. It's best to take what waves you're given and hold on when the big one comes. Either that, or wait for the standout and get a few massively epic rides rather than several mildly epic rides...you're choice.
There's a life lesson in there somewhere too, which is often the case with surfing. I'll let you decide what it is...but whatever you learn, hopefully this post will help guide your decisions when that monster approaches!
They say pride comes before a fall...but they didn't mention anything about the washing machine tumult after the fall, followed by gasping for air and a long swim in. Last winter was a big one for me in Southern California, with waves in the 20+ foot range at some breaks. As we head into this winter, I thought I'd share a couple stories of some of the bigger days from last year, and the lessons learned past the aftermath.
Surfing is a progression, and so calling a wave "big" can be a relative thing. That being said, I spent last winter paddling into progressively bigger surf, and as I had been thrashed and also conquered, my sense of what I could handle grew. And as it grew, I have to admit that a little pride creeped up in my water-logged brain....
February 2014:Massive swell coming through. My friends and I shared bloated surf reports through texts and social media leading up to the weekend, excited for the potential glory ahead. But deep down, a tiny nagging worry was there in the pit of my stomach asking if I could handle it. Of course I could handle it...right?
Photo courtesy of Brian Esquivel.
The big day comes and,after checking out a couple unsurfable spots (huge closeouts on shallow sand), we back-tracked to a break where some other guys looked like they were having a good time. We suited up and paddled out, only to immediately be swept into a current and carried down into a cove and back to shore. The humility began. This happened three more times as I'd head for the break, only to get carried away and pounded by the ten foot waves. All the while I was watching guys shred these beautiful right-handers, snapping the tops of overhead sets and then paddling back for more.
After the fourth thwarted attempt, I decided I wouldn't be kept down and, hitting a rare lull between sets, I made it out. I rested for a quick minute before going for a wave. I paddled and caught it, but that's when things get hazy...I'm still not sure exactly what happened, except that I was soon falling down a steep drop with no board.
I hit the water and found myself in the washing machine -- a recently frequent friend of mine -- I stayed calm and made it out, catching a breath before the next wave hit. I made to the surface again and then reached for my leash...gone. I looked ahead to find my board being tossed and carried off to shore.
I back-stroked my way in while praying to not die, and God must have heard because after a little swim I found my board parked about halfway in, caught on some kelp I think. When I finally hit the shore, I didn't go back. For the record, my friends didn't do much better than me, so we all chalked it up to experience and a little extra duck-diving practice, and headed to Jack in the Box for some self-indulgent fast food.
Well, fast forward a few days and my friend Russell tells me he went out again, not able to make it to the break. "Really Russell? You couldn't even make it out?" I haughtily thought to myself. "What a wuss...." And then it happened --a few days later I pulled up to what is normally a fairly docile beach and the waves were breaking 30 yards past their normal spot in huge sets. Fear set in.
I watched the waves as I approached the beach, thinking to myself, "Your daughter is due next week, Rick. Don't die." The middle waves were heavy closeouts, unless I could make it to the huge sets in the back, so that was my goal. I looked for my spot, eventually finding a little lull, and went for it.
I then got slapped by some incredibly handsome whitewash as I watched the only other surfer out catch a beautiful right-hander and ride it with style. Eventually, I made it pretty far before I realized I didn't put nearly enough wax on my board because I'm sliding all over the place. So I went back in without catching a single wave and waxed up.
Humility is often found in experiencing something bigger than yourself.
Try #2: more of the same -- pounding and never ending sets. As soon as I thought I'd made it out to the break, I peeked over the crest of the wave I was paddling over and a wave twice its size was crashing in front of me. I got a lot of duck-diving practice that day...a lot.
Well, a man can only take so much. For some reason, I was also getting spooked paddling in the white after-wash of the larger waves. So after biting my lip on a duck-dive-gone-wrong and feeling like a shark hit my foot, I paddled in.
Defeated and dejected, scared and bleeding, I performed the walk of shame back to my backpack on the beach -- all the while watching awesome waves roll in, one after the other. Soon the other surfer came in and told me about how wonderful the waves were at the break. I sheepishly told him I never made it. "Oh," he said, with a little consolation in his voice, and nothing more. After he left, I stood there for a long time, watching the water and wondering if I should have paddled back out. I wanted to. I'm not one to quit easily. But the reasons to stop (bleeding lip, responsibilities back home, the "shark") kept popping up, so I left.
As I walked to my car, I decided that this would not be a defining moment in my life. I won't be the guy who gives up after half-an-hour of paddling because he's tired. It was just an off-day. A day counted as experience and a good workout. A day to be forgotten, save the lessons learned. A day for humility.
Now about food sacrificed to idols: we know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Read those verses a couple times and ask yourself: Why is loving and being known by God the answer to haughtiness in knowledge? I would have picked something like, "the fear of the Lord," but Paul says this; it seems kind of like an odd combination to me.
I had the privilege of sitting next to Curt Thompson, M.D., on a plane once. He told me about a book he had written, Anatomy of the Soul, which is about the importance physiologically to being known by others and God. It was an idea I had only heard a few times, as the Western church puts way more emphasis on knowing God, usually through disciplined actions. But look at this:
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
I heard a great Judah Smith sermon about this verse, where he pointed out that the sisters only said, "the one you love is sick," rather than list all of the reasons he might be worth saving otherwise (i.e. - he's a great brother, he is a pillar of the community, he loves you). Apparently, the way to God's heart is to focus on how much He loves us, rather than how much we love Him. In this way, it makes sense that God's love would be a combatant for arrogance, as we clearly don't deserve it, so how could we be haughty?
The rest of 1 Corinthians 8 is about how we should be careful to not exercise our freedom at another brother's expense -- in this case, it meant eating food sacrificed to false idols, which meant nothing to the mature believer, but would potentially be a stumbling block to someone with weaker faith (and not weaker in a bad sense, just newer).
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
1 Corinthians 8:13
As a meat-eater, I can say with assurance: that is love!
And so we are humbled by God's love for us, and allowing that to invade our lives will overflow into unreasonable love for others. That's a beautiful thing!
When I moved to Los Angeles five years ago, I have to admit I was a little unsure about what to expect from LA skaters. It's a big city where the level of skating is sky high, and so I imagined territorial skaters protecting their little pieces of turf in the vast concrete expanse of Southern California skateparks. To my surprise, though, I found the opposite...
Most skateparks I visit are filled with kids who love skating and love the people they skate with. But I just had a particularly awesome skate session at the Alondra Park in Lawndale, CA, and as I reflected on the sweetness that happened, I wanted to share some things that made it stand out amongst the plethora of skate spots LA has to offer.
1. The vibe at the park was great.
I love going to a park where people actually enjoy skating together. High-fives abounded as friends challenged each other to skate better, along with other typical skater hijinks. The park was even crowded with both bikes and boards, but I saw no run-ins. And though I was a stranger, the local guy shredding one of the bowls gave me some tips on working the angles. Solid park, solid people.
2. Live music
Two dudes were jamming on guitar by the bowl the whole time! It was probably the first time I've experienced a live music skate session, but it was totally rad, and added to the homey feel.
I also love to skate a pool in Culver City where a bunch of old rippers from the 80's come out and play music on a huge boom box -- usually skater punk, but sometimes Devo! These guys are also top notch skaters, minus the ego, and are happy to share the space for a rad Saturday session.
3. SoCal summer weather
As I stood by the bowl, listening to Sublime, I looked up to the sky and watched the sun setting; a ball of fire enveloped by the clouds while silhouettes of tall palm trees lined the skyline. The air was cool as a Pacific ocean breeze wafted through the park. The weather was perfect to join people of all ages having fun skating together...and it was good. Skate sessions like that don't come along too often, but today I was lucky enough to get one. Southern California has a lot to offer as far as skating goes, but it doesn't mean you can't have just as awesome a session wherever you're at. So go out and find your chi session...then come back here and tell me about it
Two years ago, my friend Kyle Hamilton and I set off to make a skate video to commemorate his time in Los Angeles, before moving to the more compressed big city of New York. After day one of shooting left us so sore that day two quickly became a wash, we discovered the title for our movie: "Too Old for This."
That was two years ago, and I'm still skating, so I guess I wasn't too old for it. But then last weekend I found myself injured in a (two-hand touch) football game that nearly jeopardized an excellent South swell the next day. And so I have to ask myself again, am I too old to keep doing these extreme sports?
This was taken just before the peak of my skating "career."
The answer is a resounding NO! And neither are you.
The fact of the matter is, though age deters progress, it only increases your ability to have fun. Case and point: at the peak of my skating, I had dreams of sponsorship, traveling the country (dare I say it: the world?) with a team, exploring new spots and making amazing videos that pushed the limits of the sport. Every venture to the skatepark was a new opportunity to hone my skills, and if there was a sponsored skater at that park, to impress him into inviting me to be on his team.
As a result, each session was about landing the trick, looking good doing it and capturing it on video, no matter how many attempts it took. Sure, I had fun, but there were moments when I was in the midst of skating greatness and found myself figuratively paralyzed for fear of inadequacy, or forcing my friends to watch me try a trick 75 times to get it on tape.
Photo by Minh Tue.
Now, in my "old age," those thoughts and ambitions have long since sailed away on a sea of reality and full-time jobs, resulting in the unthinkable notion and freedom of simply having fun skating!
Many a times I have drifted to an empty corner of the skatepark to try my measly backside air (featured in this video) or a kickflip down a 5-set. Sooner or later a "good" skater would show up, drawing a crowd as he goes for a nollie body jar 5-feet out of the pool, or a 360 heelflip down the stairs. And did I quit? No sir! And when I landed it, though no one else was impressed at my skills compared to the whipper-snappers around me, I knew that I had accomplished more than just landing a trick...I had fun doing it.
And so I charge you, old man, stop browsing the internet, buy that rack already and go do what you love! You can thank me later while you're icing your knees.
I've been reading in the Jewish Publication Society bible (The Tanakh or the Old Testament). It reads a little differently than the Old Testament, but really the only main difference I've noticed is that it's more frank or brash in some of its language.
Anyway, I was reading 2 Kings 19 and Judah, under the rule of King Hezekiah, is on the verge of attack from Assyria. Assyria sends some dudes to come threaten them a couple times, and its scary -- I can't imagine living in a world where the threat of foreign invasion is constant. I suppose you could argue we're there right now, but I think it's much less imminent than in those days.
So Hezekiah takes this letter from the messengers of Assyria and goes into the House of the Lord. He spreads it out before God and prays:
"O LORD of Hosts, Enthroned on the Cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. O LORD, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see. Hear the words that Senacherib has sent to blaspheme the living God! True, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have annihilated the nations and their lands, and have committed their gods to the flames and have destroyed them; for they are not gods, but man's handiwork of wood and stone. But now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hands, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that You alone, O LORD, are God."
I think this is a beautiful model for prayer, especially prayer in desperation. First, he praises God for who He is. Then, he requests God's attention before stating what is true about the situation he is in. Next, he petitions the Lord in faith and for His glory.
What a great model! Praise God, tell Him your situation, express to Him your faith that He can change it, and request it for God's glory. It's pretty similar to Jesus' model of prayer in Mathew 6:9-13:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,Hallowed be Your name.Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
A lot (if not all) of what Jesus said was based in, or an interpretation of, the Jewish scriptures, so it's important to know them if we're to fully understand what Jesus meant.
Also, this model for prayer is similar to what Jamie Winship speaks about, particularly in the Hearing from God series (here is the first one - I think there are 5 or 6. If you can't find them, let me know). I'm doing a bad paraphrase here, but essentially Jamie encourages us to tell God what's true about our situations, and then ask God to show up in a powerful way, which requires faith. This allows for honesty, where we don't have to pretend we're not in a bad spot, but can openly tell God, "this is where I'm at; I don't like it, but I think You can do something about it."