February 2016

February 29, 2016

Let Go

A few weeks ago, all I wanted to do was surf. It had been a while, but a friend invited me out and so the prospect was there. A couple contingencies blocked my path though: my oldest daughter needed to be napping and my youngest needed to stay quiet while she was napping. As my wife and I rocked our youngest to sleep, watching another episode of Fixer Upper, I kept a keen eye on the clock, knowing my friend was paddling out at 4pm and that it was already past 3. Unfortunately, the television could not drown out the sound of both my daughters crying as the sweet possibility of surfing was slipping away before my eyes.
I tried hard to not let my hopes get up for a surf session. When that was becoming less possible, I tried hard to let go of those hopes. But I found myself doing anything but. Downright anxious, all I wanted was for the kids to be quiet so I had a good excuse to go surfing. It was consuming me, making me angry, irritable, no fun to be around. My desire to surf had won out against logic, emotion and even love.
Eventually things quieted down and I did get to go surfing, but as I drove to the beach, I couldn't help by feel ashamed of my behavior and attitude, and so I decided something had to change. All of the irritation going along with a simple want actually decreased the overall enjoyment of the thing I wanted.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Being a father means abandoning the self for the sake of others, but our natural tendency is to hold on to whatever we can. The more kids you have, the less self you have to hold on to. Losing control of the time you once enjoyed and took for granted, you're practically forced into selflessness. But what happens when our body kicks back and we fight for what we want? Are we supposed to just make ourselves less selfish? I think that's where that last verse in 2 Peter helps.
Start with faith...a saving faith in Christ and faith that God is working on us through his Spirit. That leads to virtues such as patience, love and goodness. Add to that knowledge...knowing the scriptures and what God wants to make us into as well as his power to do so. All of that together leads to self-control when we get in these situations and, as those situations becoming increasingly difficult, long-suffering kicks in. Ultimately we become more like Christ, which finds its culmination in loving others.
It's a long road, but at least we're given clear steps to take. Always remember though, this doesn't start with our own ability, but rather faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Consequently, I just wrote a song with the same title and decided to shoot a little video for a blog post with the lyrics. Check it out here!

Let Go (Abandon) - A Song!

I've been writing songs for about 15 years now, but haven't done a lot of sharing them outside of the awesome punk band I was in in high school. Well, I'm 30 now so I figured it's long past time to start putting it out there! Here's the first in what will be many songs, videos and albums I hope to share on this blog!
I write a lot of songs in pieces, while driving or doing chores around the apartment, I'll record verses and choruses on my phone as I think of them, and later put them to music. This song actually came about when, while driving home from work one day, I felt like God told me, "If you let go of your creative pursuits, I'll show you who you really are." It was kind of out of the blue, but hit me like a freight train.
I immediately resisted, as my entire reason for uprooting my life and relocating to the west coast was the follow dreams of working in the film industry. That's changed over time, but my pursuit of a creative career has always been crucial to my motivation for life. It has always felt like part of my DNA, and so to deny that would mean denying myself. As I've wrestled with this and mulled it over, this song formed.
It's really a dialogue with God, with the words in quotes being things I feel like he would say or felt like he did say. Everything else is a description of how I have responded going through it. The struggle isn't over, but I've definitely made major strides in approaching my life, career and creative endeavors with an open hand. Take a look at the lyrics and watch the video below. Maybe you can relate.

"I'm not asking you to abandon who you are, or what you wanted to be. I was just hoping you'd let go your hold onto these things that get between you and me."
"Let go, let go," is what you said, but letting go is what I dread. Oh, I don't know how to let go, so I'm holding on instead.
You asked for my life. I gave it away...only to take it back (to) control my destiny. You said that I died right along with you. Then how come there're still these stubborn dreams I'm holding to?
"I'm not asking you to exchange all who you are or who you wanted to be. I'm just saying that, would it be so bad to spend a little time with me?"
You asked for my life, but I held it back to do all the things I wanted to that I claimed you asked. Then one day you called on me to let it go, but I said, "That's who I am and what I do...so no."
"Let go, let go," is what you said. But letting go is what I dread. Oh, I don't know how to let go, so I'm trusting you instead.
You said that I died, but then you raised me to life...a truer version of myself than I could have designed. So why not let go? Abandon it all? 'Cause when God tells you, "Let go," listen to that call.
"I'm not asking you to exchange all who you are or who you wanted to be. I'm trying to remove all that's gotten through to you that keeps (you) from trusting me. I'm not asking you to exchange all who you are or who you wanted to be. I'll just say with love that I am enough. You will find what you seek in me."
I really like writing songs that progress, with lyrics that change as the song moves forward, like a character arc. You'll notice the chorus for this song changes as my responses to God do. Just a little thing I like to do. Hope you like it! Thanks for reading/listening!

February 13, 2016

What's Your Name?

How would you like to know what you're here to do, life's purpose? I think a big part of that is wrapped up in learning your identity. It's a big topic, bigger than just this blog post, but to start read Genesis 17 (it's short), the account where God changes Abram's name to Abraham.
In summary, God tells Abram he will make him the father of many, despite being 99 years old, and changes his name to commemorate it (Abram means "exalted father," and Abraham means "father of many").  But "Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'" (Genesis 17:17). That's interesting...not sure I'd laugh if God told me something like that. Anyway, God also gives Abraham a stipulation for the promise: every male in his household must be circumcised. Oh...um...okay.
The bible then says: "On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him...Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him." (Genesis 17:23, 26-27) Can you imagine the wailing in Abraham's camp that night? But note his immediate obedience, even concerning such an extreme task.
So what does all that mean for us? First, be bold in your discourse with God. God did not strike Abraham down for laughing about the promise, but rather includes it into the promise. He takes Abraham's personality, which apparently is to laugh frankly at ridiculous notions, and wraps that up in his promise with him by telling him to name his unborn child (the child of promise) Isaac, which means, "he laughs." It seems God is a familiar God, knows us well, and will bring that knowing into our relationship with him, even into his future plans for us. And so we can approach God trusting that he knows us intimately, which creates a safe environment for boldness. (Keep in mind though, that when Abraham laughed, he was still facedown. He still knew he was talking to God, and did it respectfully.)
Second, your past is important. After God told Abraham his plans, Abraham asked him to bless Ishmael instead, since he was already there. Ishmael was a son born of another woman, his wife Sarah's servant, whom she gave to Abraham to take as a second wife when she could not conceive. Here is God's response: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:21-21) It doesn't hurt to ask! But that wasn't part of God's plan. However, in our discourse with God, it's perfectly valid to bring up the past, even past mistakes, and see what he says about it.
Third, when God tells you to do something, do it! God gave Abraham a specific dream, commemorated by the change of his name; but also a specific command, which was to circumcise his household. And Abraham did not procrastinate, but this seemingly impossible command that very day! So should we get a word from God, don't take it lightly! Do it, right away. Just be sure that the word is in fact from God (here is some great teaching with very practical tips on how to do that).
Finally, know your name. Sounds silly, right? But sometimes we aren't born with the name that best describes our identity. God changed people's names in the bible all the time! That is evidence that God does in fact know us very well; and so, if God knows us as intimately as scripture says, he likely has a name for us, and it corresponds to our truest nature and purpose.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3)
Look at your given name to start (Abraham is a derivative of Abram). Names aren't always changed in scripture, so maybe whatever yours means carries just the right meaning for who you are. Then, go to God. Ask him what your name is, what he calls you. I did this years ago and heard, "Peacemaker," which totally corresponds to who I am and what I bring to relationships. I still don't know the full realization of what that means, but it's somewhere to start!
Really, the biggest lesson here is, in searching for your identity, go to God. Include him in every aspect of finding out who you are, because he already knows who you are, and likely wants to tell you.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord... (Jeremiah 29:12-14a)

February 3, 2016

Skater Dad: the movie: the blog post

Over a year ago, while taking my infant daughter on stroller walks, I noticed a few good skate spots by our place; and so I thought it'd be fun to bring a camera and start shooting some skateboarding. I grew up making skate videos, and so it breathed new life into my skating to be shooting again (it had been a couple years since the last one). Taking my daughter also made for great father-daughter time.
Soon after, while driving around looking for new skate spots, I happened across a fenced-in skatepark with an 18-and-over-only session in the middle of every weekday -- it was perfect -- I could take my daughter in her carrier/pack-and-play, and skate knowing she was safe (I always had the skatepark to myself because all the normal adults work in the middle of the day). Pretty soon the idea to make a Skater Dad video started forming, and I made it a goal to shoot a new trick every skate session.
This is when things got difficult.
On my birthday I asked my sister to shoot me skating for a present, and decided it was a good time to try out a sizable gap near me. I hadn't done a gap in a while, and so after about an hour my thighs started giving out on me. I got farther and farther away from landing it and eventually had to give up. There are few things worse in skateboarding than walking away from a trick, but I couldn't go anymore -- age had caught up to me, and though I thought it was a one-time occurrence, this unfortunately became the theme of shooting Skater Dad.

I vowed to come back and make the gap. Meanwhile, I had my eyes on some other big tricks -- namely a kickflip down a 7-set nearby. Another intense session, another walk-away. While recovering, I managed to make a lot of tricks at smaller spots, but those two big ones plagued me. I also kept my eyes open, and had a few more "big" tricks in mind to capture before finishing Skater Dad. But the big question was: could I make them?
Eventually I went back to both spots, and both times was not able to get the trick. I tried other spots, namely a 6-stair handrail in a neighborhood -- to no avail. It was as if I knew I could physically pull off the tricks (I had done gaps and rails just as big), but couldn't get my mind to put my feet on the board to land it. To make matters worse, my muscles just didn't have the endurance I used to, and so if I didn't get the trick in 45 minutes or so, I was done. Skateboarding is indeed both mental and physical, and both were failing me.
Skater Dad: the movie was almost done, I was just waiting to get these big tricks to finish. I had even written a song to compliment the big comeback moment I hoped for in the movie, "Relentless," written about the tenacity I used to approach skateboarding with and how it had bled into my personal life. Even the song was bigger in my mind than I could manage to produce, and so it got nixed from the film. Time went on, the release of the movie lingered, but the tricks were never captured.
Not getting those tricks was incredibly difficult for me -- a realization of both age and ability. It made skating not fun, and I knew something had to change for me to keep enjoying the sport I loved, or else I'd have to quit.
big gap fail
The gap that got away.
Eventually, through many ups and downs, good sessions and bad, I came to a few conclusions...first, skating for the sake of a video is stressful and kind of lame. To have in your mind that your session is a failure if you don't land a trick on video puts a pressure on your skating that is the antithesis of what it's all about. Combine that with running out of space on memory cards, dying batteries and expensive equipment being hit by runaway skateboards...and you're setting yourself up for higher blood pressure. Don't get me wrong -- I love making skate videos and will continue to do it -- but it just has to be done with what I will call an "open hand" attitude, i.e. - if you don't get the trick, it's not a big deal, so let it go. After all, at the end of the day you're still skateboarding and that's what matters.
Second, I had to come to reckon with my limitations. When I used to aim for lofty tricks, I would rely on perseverance to finish them, trying tricks hundreds of times until I landed them (and making my friends videotape half of the attempts...sorry). At this point in my life, my body just can't take hundreds of attempts anymore. Additionally, with the responsibilities of an almost-thirty-year-old, I don't have the hours and hours of free time I did in high school to keep trying tricks (this is another stressor in making videos by the way: time limits). As a result, I decided to accept that my skating must change for me to keep going. The last tricks I shot for Skater Dad were an impossible footplant and flamingo at fairly mellow bank. As I head into the future, I think you'll see more technical tricks like this than kickflipping sets of stairs.
Bouncing off the last lesson was a big realization that the way I've been approaching skateboarding the last fifteen years is skewed. My process has always been to get to a spot, imagine a trick, and try it until I landed it (usually on camera). After that, maybe I'd do it a couple more times to get it down and move on, but likely never attempt it again. While shooting Skater Dad, I went to the Hope Chapel Skate Church in Hermosa Beach. I skated their miniramp with a guy who would literally do the same trick successfully over and over and over again, each time trying to go a little higher or get it a little tighter. It was super annoying to watch, but he had his tricks dialed. Now I know that if this guy were going out shooting for a video, he would have landed the trick a half-dozen times at least before shooting a single frame. The result: way fewer attempts, way less frustration, and way better skating. I realized I had spent most of my time skating with the wrong attitude in progression; if only with it hadn't taken fifteen years to learn...
So there it is -- some life lessons in a tough video shoot for a movie that I'm pretty proud of. In the end, whether or not we get the tricks we want is always secondary to becoming better people, and ultimately more like Jesus. And so even though this video wasn't what I thought it would be when I started, the growth process will always have counted for more than landed tricks.
P.S. - If you care to watch me talk about this same stuff you just read, along with some fun video clips of what I'm talking about, check out the video below!