November 2015

November 25, 2015

A Lament for Black Friday



As Thanksgiving has been approaching, naturally most of the radio/tv/web ads have been concerned with trying to get me to buy something, checking items off my Christmas shopping list as quickly as possible so I can get to the important stuff, like watching Elf and drinking egg nog. What has been a little unique about this year, though, is that I think Black Friday, once the hallmark of every retail store's year, is disappearing.
The ads started about a week ago, with most of the online shops claiming to provide Black Friday-calibur deals early. Amazon.com of course lead the pack in this endeavor, who, by the way, have kicked out the greatest pillars in the collapse of Black Friday with their Prime Two-Day Shipping (and in some cities, Two-Hour Shipping!); for who would bare the crowds of a busy mall when he or she can wait mere hours and get the same item for cheaper? Last year was the first time Prime shipping really affected things I think, which I realized as I daily saw mail carriers sprinting through my apartment complex to deliver the plethora of packages. Maybe this year I'll set up a stand with little cups of Gatorade for their surely thirsty throats.
amazon-truck
The brick-and-mortar stores are responding by simply opening up earlier and earlier, to the point where "Black Friday Doorbusters" are happening on Thursday, giving families just enough time to eat an early supper before heading off to the malls. But what about their employees who have to arrive hours before the evening opening? I suppose they are mere casualties in the frantic rush to take our money just a little faster than the other guys (but still not faster than Amazon). Today I heard a radio ad for Kohl's, revealing their intention to open on Thanksgiving day at 6pm, with fervor citing this year as the "Best Black Friday Ever." So good I guess it has to start on Thursday...
There is hope though, for just a few ads before that one I heard Ross/TJ Maxx/ Marshall's boasting that they will be closed on Thanksgiving so their employees can spend time with their families. And this is where I hope most stores will land in the near future -- realizing that stealing our holiday to make more money may draw in some, but the majority just can't stomach the loss of something so sacred in exchange for mere objects -- it's like trading turkey for tofu just because it's a good deal. Besides, if Amazon keeps up their trend in speedy shipping, it may literally take longer to go to Best Buy for the Playstation 6, and thus the final nail in the coffin of big box stores will have been dealt.
But wait...why is this cynical post about the problems with American consumerism titled "A Lament for Black Friday?" Wasn't Black Friday the ultimate example of everything that is wrong with the system, and so its downfall can only mean good things for families and time and togetherness and pretty much everything but turkeys themselves? Yes. But if I'm being honest, as I watch Black Friday disappear I can't help but find myself a little...sad.
zeldabundleintheus
My first Black Friday purchase. I'll never forget how a grown woman cut me in line at the Wal-Mart before I got it.
I remember not ten years ago, sitting around after a hearty Thanksgiving supper -- the men were enjoying football, the kids playing hide-and-seek, and the moms were checking the paper to scope out the deals for the next day's shopping endeavor. I remember how they made their game plan that night, and (sometimes) early on those fateful Fridays, shook off the food coma to spend some time shopping...together. Yes, sisters, cousins, aunts and sometimes even sons and husbands would go out together to buy things for each other. A quick lunch at the mall food court (again, together) and then a couple more hours of shopping before they would finally part ways to go home for some much-needed rest.
As I got older, I would sometimes venture out early to catch a deal or two; other times easing my way into the afternoon, voluntarily forfeiting the really good deals for leftovers, but still catching the last remaining hints of holiday buzz that wafted through the air like crumpled receipts and stray plastic bags. Yes, it was cheesy and capitalistic and not really important in the overall course of human history, but it was fun. And so, as I watch those days I once took for granted slowly dissipate like the exhaust of a tired delivery-person's overworked truck, I can't help but be a little sad.
In the end it's probably a good thing. Black Friday had become a day that had gotten a little out of hand when fathers started skipping Thanksgiving to camp out at Best Buy for their kid's electronic wishes, and way out of hand when people literally died in Wal-Mart stampedes of desperate shoppers too eager to save a few hundred dollars on a television. But before it's gone, I wanted to write a little lament for the excitement, fun and togetherness that such a day had brought to those who were able to handle it well, and now sit at their computers alone to click away their Christmas lists.
Maybe with all that time we save driving from store to store we can spend it together in even more meaningful ways! Like board games or playing football or a family folk jam. Or maybe we can even catch a surf! Here's to a repeat of 2013 and the Thanksgiving Swell that I still miss...just a little bit more than Black Friday.

November 24, 2015

Trishredathon!



It had happened by accident a couple years prior... We had season passes to Mt. Baldy and decided to get one more day in as winter was ending and the little bit of spring Southern California gets was approaching with haste. I grew up riding the icy mountains of North Carolina, but after only two seasons of West Coast powder, had gotten too accustomed to it. That final day in Baldy was a throwback to my roots, which I quickly realized as I tossed myself off of a little kicker into what looked like soft snow, but was anything but soft...
A couple hours later we were exiting the mountain and heading back to town -- Baldy was a bust. It was the first hot day in a while in Los Angeles, and some friends were going to the beach, and that's when it hit me: I could feasibly snowboard, surf and skateboard in one day. God bless California.
I managed all three that day, but only barely, as the skatepark was dark by the time I got to it and I was only able to do a few carves in the bowl to claim completion. And so, a couple years later and just one month before the birth of my first daughter, I decided to pursue the California Trifecta once again, this time for reals.
wavestrom shovel
Mellow wave on a not-so-mellow day.

Months of planning led to a group of guys ready to ride the elements with me, though about a third dropped out the day before. Even I had stayed up too late the night before, and almost tried to eat cereal with sour milk, hardly preparing me for the hardships that lie ahead...
First up, surfing at Hammerland, the northernmost tip of Manhattan Beach. It was a small, but glassy day, which meant the Wavestorm was my board of choice. The rides were long and the camaraderie strong, and so after about two hours of fun in the water (as well as a bonus skimboarding session, so fourth sport), I went home for a snack and then a quick skate at Culver City Skatepark.
fruitybooter
Tim getting air in the best pool I've ever skated.

This park has been one of my favorites for years, mostly due to the perfect pool and drainage ditch-style banks, along with a great kicker-to-flat. Unfortunately, the park was riddled with scooters and skaters, and so there was little room to shred. Still, I got in a few curves and a little street skating with my fruit-booting buddy Tim, before pressing on to the final sport, and the home-stretch.
It was a long ride to Mountain High, complete with good friends, a Chick-fil-A visit and not-a-few punk songs. Needless to say, by the time we arrived I was nearly exhausted, but had come too far to turn back now with the sweet taste of completion wafting on my tongue like the icy fall of artificial snow. All dramatics aside, it was a tough session at Mountain High, and I got a little cranky when I couldn't land the tricks I knew I was capable of. But after a solid four hours of riding, I had done it -- the Day of Boardacalypse had come to a close, and I survived.
tay curve
Taylor was the only one to hit this curved box.

Check out the Trishredathon video below for the full details. A big thanks to Russell, Mitchel, Justin, Tim S., Taylor, Tim J. and Tyler for joining me along the way, and Korey for planning. A special double-thanks to Mitchel for completing two out of the three sports (three out of four, if you include skimboarding). He's been training on the skateboard, and so next time I'm confident we will stand side-by-side as finishers in one of the greatest challenges Southern California board-riders can undertake. We are blessed to live here, and blessed to shred the gnar.

November 9, 2015

This was supposed to be a short post…



While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:4-15)
I want to focus on that last verse: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
It's interesting that the people who receive Jesus' word do so because they have a noble and good heart. This means their heart has to be in the right place before hearing the word. How does that happen? Part of it we can accomplish, and part of it is up to God. I found a great article on the subject here, which in summary says that we can prepare our hearts for connection with God through a fixed commitment to the Lord, humbling ourselves before the Lord, and constantly reminding ourselves of what God has done in the past. It's a short read, so I suggest checking it out.
The second part, for me, really emphasizes the need for prayer in evangelism. We can shout truth all day long to an individual, but unless God is involved in the encounter, working in the receiver's heart, it is all for naught. And so, as we go out to share the truth of the gospel, we MUST remember to soak our endeavors in prayer.
Finally, I'd like to point out those last few words: perseverance produces a crop. To be fruitful in our Christian life, making disciples of others, requires great perseverance.
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
So how do we persevere? A single-minded and long-term commitment to the Lord, discipline, and regular communion with God and His church are three key elements. The aforementioned article has some good things to say about our commitment to God, as well as a book I'm currently reading, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I highly recommend the book, as it will certainly challenge your view of discipleship in a good way.
Discipline is one of my least favorite words, but I can't help but accept that it is a big part of the Christian life. I don't know about you, but whenever I have time to spend with God (in His word, through prayer, writing, etc.), there are always a dozen other things I could be doing instead; and sometimes would rather do. However, regularity in our time with God will inevitably lead to regular encounters with God, and when you have encountered God, it changes things. But without the discipline of setting aside time with God, it will rarely happen by itself.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
An excellent source on creating positive habits in pursuit of God for me has been the Every Man a Warrior series. I highly recommend it. (This post feels a bit like a giant advertisement for all-things-Christian, doesn't it? I promise I'm not getting paid by any of these people!)
And then we must encounter God through his church in order to persevere. This can mean a variety of things outside of traditional church attendance (though that is certainly included), but essentially we must connect with God's people in some capacity and with some regularity (again, requiring discipline). Through the body of Christ, we receive accountability, encouragement and correction when we may be tempted to stray; not to mention the fun of hanging with other Christians! We are also challenged in our faith and do the same for others as we all struggle together through life in our pursuit of God.
I've met Christians before who do not seem terribly interested in church-going, and there are seasons when this may be called for; but I encourage you to make sure you are connecting with other believers in some capacity and with some regularity. My personal favorite is through surfing! (Don't know any? Find a Christian Surfers group here.)
This was supposed to be a short post on one verse, but turned into something else...sorry! (but not really...) If you have any thoughts, comment below!