Still Not Sure What Really Happened

This story has been sitting in the back of my head for a while now.  I figure I’d write it out now and see where it takes me.  So, I knew a guy.  Let’s call him Michael.  And for the sake of putting a face to him, let’s say he looks like this:

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Michael was a cool guy.  As a freshman, we had a couple of classes together despite him being a year older than me.  Something about him always made me gravitate towards him.  No, not in a romantic/attraction sense.  I mean, for some reason, I really wanted to be his friend.  Maybe it was our mutual friends or the fact that we shared the same faith, but I always found myself talking to him when I got a chance.  Conversations between him, our friends and me ranged from intellectual to outright silly.  Maybe I was just excited to befriend someone older than me?

We did end up being pretty good friends.  He actually came to my baptism and even got me a gift.

Anyway, a couple years would pass and he would be chosen to be the president of the Christian fellowship on campus.  He had a good head on his shoulders.  He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do for the school year, had good administrative skills and was on good terms with the whole team.  I was on that team, albeit with a more secondary role.  Basically I didn’t have an official title, but some work was offloaded on me from time to time.

Halfway through the school year, I was having a conversation with my cousin.  He had some ideas that he wanted to voice to the fellowship core team.  And since he knows me and I have a voice in said team, he sought to speak through me.  We sat down at the library and typed out a long email.  The tone we were going for was more of constructive criticism or suggestion oriented, but the nature of typed words is that they can be interpreted however the reader wants.  My cousin and I patted ourselves on the back and thought “wow, we’re taking steps to create a better fellowship.”  That email would go on to spark a message thread that wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.  Some core members took it as a chance to voice their own harsher opinions and some sought to argue through some things.  It got to a point where a lot of fingers were pointed at Michael.  And to a certain extent, it kind of was his fault.  The problem with his leadership style was that he took on the bulk of the tasks and planning.  He only dished out simple assignments to us, or perhaps things he could trust us to accomplish.  As a result of Michael’s leading style, only he knew the inner workings of the fellowship, and only he knew how to handle all the paperwork and administrative things.  All he really needed to do was train some of us up for the following year or not take too many things upon himself.

And then Michael resigned.

He said it was for personal reasons and that too many things were piling up on his plate.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but to a couple others and myself though, it seemed as if he wanted to see us as a chicken running around without it’s head.  Part of me thinks he wanted us to come crawling back to him and beg him for his leadership.

Alas, we still had to function and lead the fellowship.  There was this weird limbo where Michael was still part of the team, but not.  He wouldn’t join us for planning meetings, but he would still offer his input in team message threads.  When we finally drew the line to Michael’s contribution, we were left with a core team that was slowly drifting apart.  All the criticism and finger pointing was causing us to crumble.

Despite all of this, something changed.  Leaders arose from the team (no, not me) and a new passion for the fellowship was ignited.  It pushed us past just scraping something together for general meetings and allowed us to move forward.  Even past that, as I and a couple others returned on leadership for the following year, things ran better.  As leaders, we took ownership of this fellowship and made the most of it.  My cousin was added to the core team as well, and for the most part, his suggestions were made a reality.

All because I wrote that email?  Maybe.  All because Michael left at the worst possible time?  Perhaps more so.  His departure forced us to make the changes we always wanted and maybe needed.

And as for Michael?  I think in his mind he sought to burn his bridges.  Yes, he graduated and all that.  Was this his master plan all along?  Like some variation of [spoiler alert] Lelouche’s plot to save the world at the end of Code Geass by focusing the hatred on him?  Or maybe Michael couldn’t stand to see the fellowship prosper without him?  I don’t know.  Despite reflecting on the events that unfolded, I’m sure there are multiple variables that I didn’t even know of.  And because of that, I’m still not sure what really happened.

Misfits

“Are we still doing this dance!?”

Derek let out a sigh of frustration.  After countless instances of being tormented and teased by them, they found it appropriate to continue even as we were now all upperclassmen in college.  And even as we were on a missions trip.

Being the servants we were, Derek and I set up 4 or 5 tents for the rest of the team.  As we were getting settled into our own tent, those guys had been idly waiting to kick us out and throw their stuff in to claim it as their own.  A jerk move, but what could we do?  They were in charge of the tent assignments.

Of course, I spent the night remembering all the times they felt the need to mess with us over all the years.  There was that Winter Retreat where they took all of our sleeping bags and threw them atop the cabin roof.  There was that Summer Camp where they broke into our cabin and rummaged through all of our things to find our toothpaste and hide it in the toilet.

The one time justice would have been served, the moment was inopportune.  We had preemptively found all the alarm clocks set to 3am they hid in our cabin and had every intention to give it back to them and say “I think you left these in our room…”

But that night they had a serious cabin time, what could we do?

It was a rough first night.  Like all the other instances, we shrugged it off and went on with the week.  It wasn’t even worth our time or energy to retaliate, let alone complain.

Alas, we’ve moved on and they’ve changed, so I guess all is well now.

Tic Tac Toe

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I watched from a distance as he sat alone on a log.  I was prompted not 5 minutes ago to talk to him from one of his peers.  As I walked towards him, I heard the laughter of the kids playing on the volleyball and tether-ball courts.  I didn’t really know what to do or say.  I just knew that sometimes people just want you to sit with them.

As I sat myself down next to him, I saw that his eyes were red from tears and his nose was a little drippy.  I handed him the wad of tissue that I had brought with me.  He acknowledged the gesture, but said nothing.

We sat in silence as I gave him time to clean himself up.  Though the sun was out and over us, the cool air made it acceptable.  A few minutes passed when I finally opened my mouth to ask:

“So, what’s bothering you?”

No response, he didn’t even look at me.

“Is there.. something or anything on your mind that you want to talk about?”

Still nothing.  I tried a few more times before I realized that this wasn’t working.  I even tried to be clever.

“Do you want me to leave?  No response means ‘no’”

He didn’t say anything.  Which either meant he wanted me there, or he didn’t care to pay any attention to me.  Either way, I took it as a no.

On the verge of giving up, I tried one more thing.  I grabbed a nearby stick and began to draw four lines into the dirt in front of us; it was a Tic Tac Toe board.  I made my first move in the center, as most people do.  He sat up straight as he looked for a stick to take his turn.  I was very surprised that this worked; I found some life in him.  We played through three cat’s games before I switched things up.

As I smoothed out the dirt, I drew a hangman layout.  He would have to speak in order to play this game, and so he did.  We took turns guessing and leading the game.  Eventually I got to ask:

“So, why are you sitting out here by yourself?”

He proceeded to open up about what bothered him.  Time flew by until it was dinner time and we headed back inside.  I learned something new that day.  There is value in being a friend first rather than say, an authority figure or something like that.

I must have done something right…

In This City..

Summer 2008

It was our senior year and all of us, Clan WumboQ, were packed into a Jeep headed for the Navajo reservation in Arizona.  Serena and Andy were our drivers for this ~12 hour trek.  Since the drive was so extensive, it was only natural for us to fall asleep for several portions of the trip.

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Around the 10.5 hour mark, the song “God of this City” came on.  There’s hardly any radio reception once you pass Barstow, but Serena had her iPod plugged in.  And one by one, we all sort of woke up.  As I opened my eyes, I saw Stu bobbing his head to the rhythm.  He began to air drum to it as well.  Slowly but surely, we all quietly sang along.  When the song subsided, we all looked at each other with a smirk.

“Yeah, this is going to be a good year”, the thought that crossed all of our minds.

This song was popular, it was pretty much the whole team’s source of inspiration for that week.  From pre-k to teens, this song was the prayer of each group.  Indeed it was a pretty crazy year to be on the rez.  We encountered various trials outside the normal rowdy kids and heavy heat.  We had a raging drugged teenager rampage about the campus.  There were many threats and rumors of a gang fight wanting to occur on Friday.  We had team discord based on entitlement and petty exceptions.  Dogs peed on our tents.  But despite it all, God used us to do amazing things that week.

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I sifted through my pictures and didn’t really find any of worth other than sunrises, sunsets and dogs.  There were only sparse pictures of kids and our performances, but even then they were of poor quality.  You can see where my interest was at the time.  Or it shows that I was super hands on and involved.  Interpret however you wish to interpret it.

Nothing is Something

 

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The night was already set up to be a little weird.  It was a praise night that our fellowship had set up off campus; the first of the year.  Nadine was supposed to play the piano, but she got sick, so she couldn’t even attend.  Gerald had just lost his voice, so he couldn’t sing that back up vocals as originally intended.  Not wanting the set to fall apart, I had the brilliant idea to move from cajon to piano.  This way the guitar wouldn’t sound so lonely when Shane lead worship.  This allowed Gerald to take over the cajon, as he wasn’t completely incapacitated like Nadine.

The night carried on, and eventually moved into a time of prayer.  As a fellowship, we were encouraged to move about the room and pray for everyone else, however you saw fit.

For the most part, everyone there was lively and happy to be there.  Not Patrick, he was clearly down in the dumps.  Dealing with relationship issues, he didn’t really want to be there.  During the prayer time, he just sat there.  He had a downcast melancholy face as he stared at the ground.  His hands were folded and remained on his lap.  You could tell that he didn’t want to talk to anybody.

Still, everyone in the room practically lined up to pray with him.  One by one, they sat beside him, put their arm around him and tried to encourage him.  After their prayer was finished, they would give him a little shake and a pat on the back and move onto someone else.  He didn’t utter a single word to those that tried to talk to him.

I knew this.

When everybody was done talking to him, I waited a moment and sat myself down next to him.  I didn’t say anything to Pat, nor did I touch him.  I just sat there and basked in the silence with him.  Five minutes passed before Pat opened his mouth to speak.  He began describing to me his situation, which I’m sure no one bothered to ask about.  He went on and on, pouring out his thoughts and describing his anguish.

And then Pat did something that was very uncharacteristic of him, ask for advice.  Whether or not what I had to say was useful, I said what I could and what I thought was right.  I must have done something right, because afterwards he asked me to pray for him.  And so I did, now that I understood a tidbit of his dilemma.

Mistake

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They gathered like sheep outside of professor Liang’s office.  Class was going overtime so she had all the students meet at her office so the next class could proceed.  After putting her things down she stepped in front of the door and announced:

“You will be working in pairs for the remainder of the quarter.  This way you can learn and struggle through the assignments together.  See me once you have found your pair so I can write your names down.”

The group of freshmen and sophomores began to converse with each other.  Some had friends in the class already.  Some were able to find an acquaintance.  Some were retaking the class, so they just needed someone that was competent.

And then there was Harry.  Who didn’t really know anyone in his major yet.  Shy and reserved, he waited towards the end where there were only a handful of students left in a similar situation to his.  This way, he could dodge the small talk and just have the professor do the pairing.  Professor Liang was looking to make the best of this situation; she tried to pair everyone as one novice and one with a little, if any, experience in Chemistry.

Looking to expedite the process a little, Harry turned to the guy on his left and asked:

“Hey, want to be partners?”

He was a tall and lanky individual.  Upon hearing the request he gave Harry a quick glance from head to toe and sized him up.  His face made a little wince as he scratched the back of his head and said:

“I’m looking for someone with more experience..”

Professor Liang proceeded to pair that student up with a different student.  When all was said and done, Harry ended up being paired with a Geology major; someone with zero Chemistry experience but found it interesting enough to fulfill their tech elective with this class.  Annoyed with his partner all quarter, Harry eventually aced that Chemistry class.  It was through guiding and tutoring that Geology major through all the projects and assignments that Harry was able to solidify the concepts in his own head.  A blessing in disguise.

As for that other student that turned him down, Harry wouldn’t see him again until his final Chemistry class of his college career.  But they weren’t in the same class together.  No, Harry saw him packing his things in the class before his.  Seeing the professor and the material on the whiteboard, Harry knew instantly that it was Chemistry 202.  Harry deduced that he must have failed every other class to still be at this point in the Chemistry curriculum.  As he left the door and as Harry walked in, their eyes met each other.  No words were exchanged, but Harry couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he sat down at a desk:

“Big mistake not teaming up with me..”

Throwback Testimony

The following is my testimony that I wrote and read in 2006 for my baptism verbatim.  Which means it reflects who I was and how I thought as a sophomore in high school.  It’s long.. I know.  I dug it up one night as I was looking through some of my old stuff.  The writing was pretty shabby, but I’m pretty happy that I kept it.

 

Hi, I’m Josh, and like many other people who attend this church, I was born into it.  Also, like a few others, I too am a deacon’s child.  Although unlike most Christians at this church, I don’t exactly recall a time when I was young that a Sunday School teacher took the time to talk to me about God and pray with me.  In fact, I doubt any auntie or uncle would at first glance at me.  According to my very own dad though, there was a time up at Family Camp when I was in kindergarten.  My dad and I were alone, and he asked me if I wanted to accept Christ into my heart, and I did.  But, of course, like all kids, we didn’t really know what it meant and just played along.  The way I see it, from since I was a little kindergartner till about some time recently, I’ve slowly been learning about God all the while accepting Him.  Of course, there have been countless times up at Summer camp, youth conferences and the Billy Graham Crusade where I would say that I wanted to accept or re-accept Jesus into my heart.  But, I never really knew if I meant it.  Sure, anyone could say it, but would they mean it?  All those camp highs and inspiring sermons never really stuck, and slowly faded away as time passed by.  When I was younger, I used to think I walked this spiritual path alone because I would feel far from God at times.  It wasn’t until a Summer camp up at Forest Home that I realized that I wasn’t alone at all, and that God was with me the entire time.  My friend spoke of the poem “Footprints in the Sand”.  As you know, the poem speaks of how a man sees his life before him and how at the worst times of his life, there was only one set of footprints and he questioned God about it.  He answered by saying “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.  During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”  That line, it hit me.  It was then that my spiritual life took an amazing step forward,  I guess you can say that at that point in my life, I began living a more Christian-like life.  Also, I took the time to pray about it and truly accept God into my heart at the very last night up at camp.

Time passed, and soon I was in 7th grade.  It was at this point that my life sort of took a plunge.  Things were changing, I was getting closer to puberty, questions popped in my head, and things were weird at this point in my life.  I stopped caring about my schoolwork, about getting good grades, about my musical instruments, and everything else altogether.  I looked at every possible downside of things and developed a short temper.  I felt that life didn’t matter to me anymore.  Around this time, I guess I was hanging around the wrong crowd of people and trying to be someone I wasn’t.  It’s not like they were overly terrible people, they just weren’t people I could really call my friends.  The innocence of everyone being everyone’s friends in elementary school wasn’t there anymore.  My social life was totally falling apart.  I questioned my faith and God, and I basically lived life for the weekends where I could hang out with the few who were my friends on Sundays.  I was falling short of the glory of God.  Months passed, and I met a couple of guys who I should have really known earlier in my school.  These guys, they were beyond awesome, and who where right in front of me the whole time.  These guys come to this exact same church.  This is where my life slowly begins its climb up.  These guys really changed my life, they may not know it, but they were a big role in my ascent to God.  Through them, I found people who I could call friends.  I found happiness in life again, and through them, I was set back on track on my spiritual walk with God.

Over this Christmas break, I went up to the Hi Koi Winter Retreat.  I thought it was going to be Summer camp all over again, except in Winter.  I was wrong; it was better.  Although, the area was more secluded and there wasn’t any activities like archery or swimming you could do, but really, it just concentrated everyone more on God.  I learned a lot up there as well as meeting people I would never think I would talk to.  Prior to being up there, I was asked to lead out grade’s guys during cabin times with my friend.  I was told I should take notes on sermons before retreat.  I did, and it really allowed me to learn and listen attentively.  Even now as I listen to a sermon as I take notes, it really makes sense, and I understand it.  Leading them up there wasn’t just an honor, but it also really taught me about leadership in general.  up at retreat, the speaker spoke of how living a life without God is like a lit match, it won’t last, but if we do accept God into our hearts, it’s like taking that match to light a candle, which so to say, would last forever.  He also spoke of how we are not alone in this Christian life; we have our brothers and sister in Christ all around us.  Also, that we will always be searching for something if we don’t have Christ in our hearts, and that God has a plan for us, and in everything we do, it should glorify Him.  As I cam down the mountain, I couldn’t help but love God more than I did before retreat.  I couldn’t hold in this new found faith in Him.  Sad to say, I think this was just another retreat high I had formed up there.  Yeah, it was great, but it began to fade as school resumed.

It wasn’t till recently that I accidentally woke late into the night and spent the time to think about my life and how it has been up to now.  I thought about how I should really start caring more about my grades, school and about the colleges I might go to, about my musical talent, and that I should try harder in it.  That day in school, I thought about it even more.  It was at that very moment that I realized everything.  All those sermons I heard about and the time up at Winter retreat all of sudden came back to me.  Everything started to make sense and I finally realized what certain sermons finally meant.  So I rummaged through some old papers and found all those notes I took up at retreat and all those sermon notes I took up till then.  I looked over them and reread them, and I realized all these small blessings in my life that God had bestowed to me.  And it brought me back to on resolution I made up at retreat, and it was to maybe get baptized.  Finally, after much thought and consideration, I remember that there wasn’t a certain point where you needed to reach to get baptized, but rather the point in your life where you want to exclaim to the world that you love God and want to renew yourself for Him.  In this realization, it was then that that spiritual high came back to me, that love for God that made me excited.  I love God, and just as us Christians shouldn’t keep God in a box, I can’t contain it anymore.  I want to get baptized because I want to be a faithful follower of Christ, and I want to serve Him with whatever talent I have.

I’ll admit that my first view on baptism wasn’t all that great.  I mean, before, I saw people including my friends before me getting baptized left and right.  At that point in time, my parents were over urging me to get baptized.  they even used my friends as an example.  I never really understood why they did get baptized, so the way I saw it was if I got baptized, people would think that I was only doing it out of my parents’ pressure and because my friends did it.

But, no that doesn’t matter anymore.  I’ve never been one to care what people think about me anyway.  It’s taken me this long to realize this, it may be late, it may be still a little premature, but that’s okay.  I’ve come a long way, and I certainly have matured as well.  I know that no matter what, god will be with me to the end.  And it is with that, that God deserves my commitment and passion, and I will gladly follow his command.

 

And April 30, 2006, I got baptized!

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..with Lorraine!

V for Victory

October 21, 2005

San Marino High School had just finished the construction of their new football field.  After playing nothing but away games so far in the season, the Titans were ready to have their first real home game.  In fact, the field was so new, the scoreboard wasn’t even ready to be used yet.  A water polo scoreboard propped up by two chairs would have to suffice.  But the varsity team wouldn’t have the honor of christening the field, the JV team would get to play on it first.

The opponent this week was Monrovia; arguably one of the strongest schools in the league that year.

The JV team battled it out, and to their encouragement, were up two scores by halftime.

“It’s not over yet..”

“Don’t let up..”

The team muttered these things to each other as they walked into the locker room.  Before we even had a chance to settle down, Coach Mo exploded:

“DO NOT LET UP!  IF YOU EVEN LET UP FOR A SECOND… this game is theirs.”

The 15 minutes allotted for half time flew by as Coach gave everyone a pep talk and some adjustments to playmaking.

The JV team returned to the field.  After a couple bad plays, Monrovia was in the lead.  An uneasiness filled the air as the San Marino sideline realized their opponent just scored 21 unanswered points on them.  Time was running out too as special teams jogged onto the field for the kickoff return.  There was only a couple minutes left in the game.

Enter Brandon Brown.

Monrovia kicked off and our token African American on the team caught the ball and began running down the field.  I wish the video footage was uploaded somewhere so I could show you, because watching it all unfold was like magic.  Because at one point, we all saw him run into a pile of bodies.. and then he bursted out.  Open field with only the kicker to beat he ran, with incredible speed, 90 yards for the touchdown.

Demoralized, Monrovia never responded as San Marino closed out the game.  I was on that JV team.  We won the first game on our brand new field.  A joyous day!

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Standing

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It was a chilly Winter evening as all the guys gathered together for their weekly Bible study.  They were a vibrant group, they enjoyed each other’s company as much as they enjoyed joking around with one another.  As the last few of them straggled into the room, they settled down and looked to the leader.  It was time to be serious.

Like most Bible studies, they started off by reading the passage together.  The group paused a moment as all of them pulled out their Bibles and smart phones and flipped to the passage.  In a good mood, the leader looked to try something new.

“In reverence to God’s Word, let us stand as we read the verses together”, he said.  “Why don’t you start us off Shane?”

“Wait, why?”,  Shane replied.  “It’s so much easier if we all just read it sitting down.”

A couple seconds passed as all the guys gave each other a slightly confused look.  They knew that he wasn’t joking, he was being serious.  One of the guys spoke up.

“Because Shane.. we’re reading God’s word, that should be enough reason.  Besides, let’s listen to our leader.”

“Ugh, fine.” Shane said as he spitefully stood up.

He began reading the passage, but he muttered and mumbled every word until one of them stopped him.

“Uh, Shane?  Could you speak up?  We can’t quite hear you..”

“See!?  This is so dumb!”, Shane exclaimed.

He proceeded to sit back down and read his verse in a clear and coherent voice.  Not looking to give Shane any further attention, the rest of the guys stood up one by one to read their piece of the passage.

The study proceeded, though there was a bit of unaddressed tension that hung in the air for the rest of the night.  Shane’s lashing out was never brought up and he even acted like nothing ever happened.  Questions remained in the guys’ heads as the night concluded.  What was that all about?  Was he trying to disrespect the leader or the act of reading the Bible?

They never found out.

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The Park Bench

Introducing a new series, “Snippets in Time”, a series of short narratives that are based on my experiences or have heard from a friend.  To add a bit of anonymity, mystery and drama, some bits and pieces may be altered.  They will have little to no explanation, so let your imagination wander.  Enjoy.

 

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“What am I doing?”, she thought to herself.

They sat on a simple park bench.  The sun was slowly sinking into the horizon as kids, families and parents gathered their belongings to leave the park.  He just wanted to talk.  But what was there to talk about?  Things haven’t been the same, and nothing they could do or say would change that.

They chatted and chatted, though their talk was small.  She wasn’t willing to go deep and he was just hoping to be a talk like they used to talk.

“I can’t do this”, she eventually blurted out.

“What do you mean?”, he countered.

“I mean we can’t just keep doing this.  You might be fine with it and you might be okay.  We always hang out for the sake of our friendship, but I can’t keep getting my hopes up for nothing.  Part of me still isn’t over it..”

Silence filled the air as birds chirped in the background and a slight breeze swept over them.

“So what do you want me to be then?”, he said, solemnly.

She gathered her thoughts.  Thinking about the past.  Thinking about what had happened.  Thinking about the course of today’s events.  Time passed, it could have been 5 minutes, or even 15 minutes, she was that lost in her train of thoughts.  As her brain went about every avenue, one thing was certain, she didn’t want to burden herself anymore.

She lifted her right hand, holding up an imaginary thumbtack.  She poked it into an imaginary corkboard and said:

“An acquaintance.”

He remained silent as she stood up.  She began walking away.  Even though he was her ride home, she just kept walking.  Across the grass and across the parking lot.  As if she would turn into a pillar of salt, she convinced herself not to look back.  Looking back would make it seem like she didn’t truly want her statement to be true.  The silence was overbearing.  The only noise came from the rustling of the grass and the scraping of the concrete sidewalk under her feet.

As she walked, she wondered.

“Is he chasing after me, hoping to get another word in?  Would he fight me hard on my response?  Is he crying?  Is he even sad?”

Soon, she found herself at the front door of her house.  She had walked all the way home.  Was this the closure she needed?

It would have to do.