Poetry

We’ve Lost.

It vanishes with passing time,
How simple we were before.
Owned only by the young and brave,
Perhaps it’s now a bore.
Each mem’ry stored is now long gone -
Never to draw another tear.
Oppressed, each day, without reprieve,
Mirthless we greet the coming year,
Origins of youth’s delight.
Remember when our hope burned bright?
Each one has since denied the sight.

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Writings

On Gratitude.

He was just the weird kid that sat with the group during lunches, always a little to the left of you – far enough where he wasn’t sitting next to you, but close enough for it to be obvious where he wanted to be.  No one really spoke to him, and people always whispered about how weird he was, how he never said a word, and they wondered why he even bothered sitting there.  You always wondered about him, but you never felt like he was doing anything out of place, so you left him alone.  You sometimes wondered about his expression, often catching him looking at you as well, but he would glance away just as your eyes fell upon his face.  It was difficult to discern what went on behind his long hair, but any time you did catch a glimpse into his soul, it seemed familiar. Somehow, you knew what you saw; you both walked through the same trials, but you chose instead to put on a different mask.  You smiled through the abuse, the tears, the screaming fear.  You deflected invitations to lounge at your place, choosing instead the guise of mock humility in hopes that flattery would divert attention away from your broken household.  You almost wanted to ask him how he was doing, but you feared that the resulting empathy would weaken your defense.

And so you went on living.

All through high school, he just sat there.  Every lunch period, he would wordlessly sidle over to your general left, letting the backpack strap slip off his right shoulder to the ground, and sit.  People stopped whispering about him eventually, sharing the belief that he wasn’t hurting anyone, so why bother?  Yet you knew how much he hurt himself – you saw a scar that peeked out from underneath his long sleeves, and you could only imagine how much it hurt to be so near to friendship but never partake.  You understood. And you never tried to change it.

And so you went on living.

You walked home everyday from school, opting to take the scenic route so that you could prolong the time spent away from home.  You’d see him get picked up every day, looking straight ahead wordlessly as his mother drove off.  You felt the silence in the car, and grimaced.  Even if it was a forty minute walk, it was definitely preferable to the suffocation of that disapproving, insatiable silence.  You exhaled as you found yourself at your own doorstep, apprehensive of the conditions that lay behind the slightly dented door.  It stuck if you didn’t push down on it as it was opening, but it wasn’t too bad.  Sometimes you’d be home alone, and you could actually do your homework in quiet.  You’d make yourself a sandwich, and fiddle with your guitar, playing things mindlessly until you heard footsteps at the door.  Putting away the guitar, you’d sigh and spread out on your bed, praying that the door to your room would stay closed.

There was no such luck today as you opened the door to the cries of your mother screaming at your father. Rushing forward to hold him back from killing her, you bit your lip as blow after blow rained on you.  You crumpled.  As you fell on your knees, hunched over, you felt your spine give out from the beating.  With your eyes shut tight, all you could see was black and red, clenching your jaw so tight your teeth groaned under the pressure.  Your breath leaves you and you fall forward onto the musty carpet, unable to respond to fading calls of your name.

You’re dying.

As you come to, you realize immediately that you’d been taken to the emergency room.  You sigh grimly, wondering when your life came to the point when you worried first about the medical bills that couldn’t be paid before you worried about your own health.  You look over at the small table beside you, and you see a card with your name roughly scrawled on the cover.  Curious, you open it, and begin to read.

Dear John,

By this point, I’m fairly sure you still don’t know my name.  But that’s okay.  I’m happy to be known as the quiet kid who sits on your left hand side at lunch.  It always felt like we had a connection.  It must be some kind of inescapable fate that led me to writing this card.  I know you don’t know much about my life – I’m not even sure if you care, but I feel like I need to tell you this because maybe you do.  Here goes nothing.

Every day at school, I walk around and try to keep a low profile. I stay quiet, and I try not to do anything weird, other than stay really quiet.  At lunch, I go over to where you and the other people sit.  If you’ve ever wondered why I’ve been drawn to your group, it’s mainly because of you.  There was a moment, I think it was sophomore year, when you put your mask down, and I recognized myself in your eyes.  I was walking in the hall, and caught sight of you opening the door to the bathroom.  But what I saw wasn’t typical you.  Your eyes gave it away; I saw the hurt you kept inside.  I didn’t know what to do.  At first, I just hung out with your group because you were the only one who would let me sit there and not ask questions or tell me to leave.  I think your friends caught on, and so I sat there with you guys all through high school.  Something about watching how you talked to your friends and how you paid close attention to what they said was really admirable.  It’s like you held onto every word they said as if it was the last thing you’d hear them say.  You rarely talked much about yourself, and I wondered why your friends never noticed that you would always dance around their questions about you – especially the questions about your home and your family.  I wanted to talk to you, to have you listen to what I had to say, but I couldn’t even hold eye contact with you longer than an instant.  And so I just watched.

I never would have guessed that you’d be going through something like this.  Even though my parents are divorced, they’ve never laid a hand on me physically.  It’s the emotional abuse that did me in.  Feelings of worthlessness, abandonment, the desire to just be accepted for who I am and not what I do, I’ve thought it all.  Eventually, I started cutting, and the peace that filled me in those moments was the only thing I looked forward to at home.  My mom stopped talking to me since my dad left us, and she either works or sleeps.  She never knew about my hobby.  My dad, well, who knows where he is?  I try not to think about him because I don’t want to run the risk of becoming anything like him.  One day, my mom overslept, and so I had to walk home.  It’s about a thirty minute walk, and along the way, I stopped by the ER.  I don’t even know why.  I stayed to see patients being rushed in, usually unconscious, and as I went in more and more after school, the staff grew to recognize me.  They would let me in the back sometimes to see the people being taken care of, and I wondered what it’d be like if I was the one laying in the bed.  Would anyone come see me?  So, I began staying longer and longer, hoping for people to wake up so that I could hear their story.  These people became my daily friends.

Still, I cut.  Some days, I could go without it, but some days, I would spend as long as I could in the bathroom, watching my anxieties flow away in a crimson calm.  Today, I avoided cutting, and went to the ER instead.  I met Henry, who was paralyzed from the neck down, and Mary, who suffered third degree burns all along the left side of her body.  And then, I met you.  At first, I couldn’t even recognize you because you were swollen.  Your mom was crying about how your dad beat you, but once she saw that you were being taken care of, she left.  The nurses said that you needed a blood transfusion, and went to look for your mom, but she was nowhere to be found.  I wondered out loud if  I was a match, and the doctor searched for your records.  We’re both O-negative.  They set me up and drew blood, and the blood transfusion was under way.  Guess it was a good thing I didn’t cut today, huh? 

Anyhow, they drew enough blood and sent me on my way.  I stayed in the lobby to write this card, hopefully my story didn’t annoy you too much.  I just wanted to say thank you for not pushing me away, and just letting me be who I am comfortable with being.  My mom was often silent at home, and it killed me; it seemed like she never forgave me for my dad abandoning us.  But when you were quiet, I understood it as an invitation to do as I pleased, and I’ll never forget that.  Hope you get better soon.

Joshua

Stunned, you put the card down.  You never realized that this was how he felt, and you began to regret not asking him how he was.  It might have cracked your defenses, but you now understood that you needed one another more than you expected to help each other get through the circumstances you were both in.  You lay in bed with your left hand still holding the card by your side, and you felt like reaching for the remote.  As you turned on the television, the first thing that was on was a news report about a vehicular homicide.  You tried your best to sit up, but froze as you heard the identification of the victim.  It was Joshua.  Apparently, he felt faint as he walked up the hill from the emergency room, and fell into the street, where a car, unable to see past the crest of the hill, unknowingly ran over his limp body, killing him.  You broke down.  You tried your best to yell, but your body denied you the capacity to.  You covered your face with your hands, clutching desperately at your hair, not understanding why this happened.  Each breath you drew brought you more pain as anguish racked your body.  You cried quietly until the tears no longer frequented your face.  When the last staggered breaths were drawn, you realized that Joshua, this complete stranger to you, gave his life that you might live.  With that knowledge, you fought to find closure through it all.  You found disbelief, you found anger, you found humiliation, and you found guilt.  But finally, after everything, you found gratefulness.

And so you went on living.

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Writings

Hey, There’s a Verse on That Bottle.

So, tonight, my fellowship, AACF (Asian American Christian Fellowship), had a Halloween outreach event at around 10PM in front of Jesus Burgers, a nearby locale that serves the people of IV by cooking burgers for them on Friday evenings. What the event entailed was grouping up and passing out water bottles to people ambling the streets of IV, looking for parties or walking off the alcohol they’ve consumed, and the general sense of the night was to show love to the citizens of IV by serving them and attempting to share the Gospel with them.  Going off my experience last year with the event, I only ended up passing out water bottles without saying a word, and making someone cry; I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of a repeat performance.

This year, if I’m honest, I only went in support of and to stand in solidarity with the leaders of inreach/outreach ministry.  My heart in the matter was just to make sure to set an example for other AACFers in giving God’s work a chance no matter the environment.  I didn’t really expect to talk to anyone at all, and I was fairly cynical about the whole situation producing any productive conversations because I was convinced that these people roaming the streets were the rocky places spoken of in Mark 4:5.  However, God was faithful to His work and humbled me in my assumption that the night would be another night of unfortunate silence, producing three memorable instances (among many) where I was able to really launch into a quality conversation with a complete stranger.

The night started off rather poorly, as a brother of mine felt understandably uneasy with the theology of some of the people we were working alongside, and it set a daunting tone for the rest of the evening.  I told the brother to pray over it and follow God’s peace, then set to pass out water bottles quietly. At first, the water bottles were handed out without any allusion or mention of the Gospel, but I guess Jeremiah 20:9 really spoke to and through me tonight, and the mentioning of Christ was indeed like a fire shut up in my bones that I could not hold in.  Soon, God gave me the idea to just tell people to even read the verse on the bottle, using it as an opener to anyone who might be interested in getting deeper in what I had to share with them.  This little tactic led to three conversations, each entirely unique and completely encouraging.

The first conversation was with a guy who came up to me, asking for water.  As I gave it to him, I told him to try and check out the verse that was on the bottle, and he actually stopped at the corner of Jesus Burgers with me, and read it.  Curious, I asked him what verse he read, and he told me it was John 16:33 (I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.). I asked him if he knew what it meant, and he shook his head, and then I proceeded to tell him about a God who loves us and gave His Son to die for us that we might overcome the chaos in this world through the knowledge of him, which brings peace to our hearts.  He seemed interested in what I had to say, and thanked me for the water before proceeding to the rest of his evening.

The second conversation was with another guy I handed water to.  This person seemed considerably more intoxicated than the first guy, but not obnoxiously so.  I told him to read the verse, and he glanced at it, then began to talk about the Bible. I asked him if he was brought up in the church, and he told me that he was brought up Catholic, but converted to Christianity on the basis that Catholicism had too many ceremonies and rituals whereas Christianity allowed for the freedom to love God in any way.  He began sharing a bit of his life story, saying he’d been struggling with his faith, having a father who left him when he was eleven years old, and realizing that that departure was God providing him with strength, and he wanted to use that strength to help people who were weaker than him be as strong as he was.  He talked about how he believed God gave us strength so we could help others, and spread positivity around the world.  Although I might have judged him a little based on how liberally he was speaking, I did pray that God would straighten his path and bring back that brother to Himself.

The final memorable conversation that I had was with Patrick from Germany, the only name I managed to get all evening. He was wearing a demon jester costume, and stopped by for rehydration.  I asked him as well to read the verse, and he opened by asking me about how I felt about the Pope changing the Church’s stance on evolution.  I told him my opinion, which does potentially clash with creationist views; I explained that I believed the two need not necessarily be mutually exclusive, but to use one to explain the other would be difficult because they are fundamentally on two different planes of thought and experience.  He agreed with what I had to say, and told me that he was Christian as well, but admitted that he wasn’t the most devout Christian.  He told me that hearing about this new Pope gave him some hope and some pride in being a Christian because the Pope seems to be a legitimately good person, and I agreed, the Pope was a very good Pope.  I then asked him where he was from and discovered he was from Germany, and we talked soccer for a bit before he clutched my shoulder gently and said that he was glad to have met me, and then we exchanged names.  I bid him a good evening, and he and his friend walked away.  I would later see them, and they cheerily greeted me.

All told, tonight’s Halloween outreach was definitely humbling and eye-opening. It humbled me because I thought I knew what God had planned for the evening, and I guess I lost hope in the salvation of IV during the Halloween season; it was eye-opening because it showed me how I was unknowingly limiting God’s power to work through me by using me as a vessel to try and speak truth into the lives of total strangers.  I’m definitely grateful that He guided me to go out to the water bottle outreach this year, and I just praise Him for the aforementioned conversations; without God’s help, I would have been rendered just as mute as the previous year, but by His grace, I was able to speak of Him to at least two or three people in Isla Vista.  If it seems like I’m boasting, I hope it seems like a boast in Christ because that is what I intended to convey.  God brought me low expectations only to surpass them greatly and prove that Christ’s love cannot be shackled by human apprehension.  Again, like it is written in Jeremiah 20:9, holding it in will wear you out, and eventually you can’t help but speak in His name.  May this spirit of sharing the Gospel continue more and more through the year within AACF.  Praise Him.

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Writings

Patient as a Rock.

So I fell off the rock wall again today.  Thank God, I wasn’t injured by it, but I didn’t leave unscathed.  This wasn’t the white V1 that I had been struggling with for weeks, and eventually tried to complete with a daring leap of faith.  This was the pink V1 route that I had consistently been sending.  Something was not right about my climbing methodology.

In reality, it might not even be the methodology that was flawed; it was the philosophy.  Simply put, I got cocky. Having come a few centimeters within sending the white V1, I guess somewhere in my subconscious, I thought I was good to go on all the other routes; I forgot how terrifying that few centimeters became as I hurtled down towards the crash pad.  As I jumped to reach the top, the exultation of finally solving the problem began crumbling as I realized that I was going down much faster than I had anticipated.  I looked down and saw my landing space dwindle to the very corner of the crash pad.  As I landed, my thighs smashed together and ended the lives of untold numbers of progeny. I collapsed onto the crash pad and lay sideways, fetal position, for a good three minutes, feeling the pain travel up to the stomach.  This second fall was nowhere as bad, but it told of worse things to come; I had become too arrogant, no longer humble before the rock, and I was no longer focused in my moves.  While daring is always a welcome characteristic in any artist, the cost of daring can prove to be a daunting price to pay.  However, this daring wasn’t what propelled me to half-heartedly reach for the top hold in the pink route – that daring was displayed on the white route.  This pink-route plunge was laziness; this was complacency.  Complacency kills.

And so, I was handed a blood-pressure spike as a warning. My time will come if I just approach climbing with the same diligence and poise as when I first started.  I just need to be patient as the rock is patient.

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Poetry

How Big?

The man sat ‘neath the moon and stars,

soul’s deep tears like liquid scars.

They asked him of how big his heart;

he spoke through whispers of his art.

-

He told the tales of paths mistaken

that made his heart swell up with hope.

Nightmares seen by Poe’s lone Raven

supplied his lonesome, noose-shaped rope.

-

How big a heart has he who gives

to those around for whom he lives?

He deigned to give the moon and stars

but he sighed instead with passing cars.

-

So now he writes a verse quite true,

explaining his enormous heart.

He filled his soul complete with rue,

detailed his end before the start.

-

He suffered much, and smiled slow;

his pain was great, but few could know.

Ask him not of how big his heart,

but ask him now: how big each shard?

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Poetry

Blood Moon.

A pearl in darkest night it rests,

a shadow cast before it.

A pilgrim come this jewel to see,

and humbly just adore it.

-

The white replaced by bloodstained red,

a sliver first, then whole.

The moon drowned full in tides of blood;

awash with tears, its soul.

-

My heart, love-full, cracked open there -

The moon’s pale face did smear.

Until moonlight was shaded by

the dark red mask of fear.

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Writings

Group Discount.

It’s the morning.

The herniated disc in my back, my previously fractured leg, the cold – all the reasons why the odds should be stacked against me made themselves apparent in the hazy swirl of thoughts that often preys upon the consciousness in the first waking moments.  I unlocked my phone screen and immediately opened Google Chrome to type in the search “ice skating for beginners.”

After reading the thirteen steps for beginner ice skaters on WikiHow as well as additional tips from eHow.com, I felt slightly more knowledgeable about the potential catastrophe I was hurtling towards with each passing minute.  I’m not sure why exactly the fear was so gradually suffocating, but I think that now, at the end of the day, I can only attribute it to a pride issue.  Mental images of slipping and falling on the ice terrorized me, and the fact that my back would potentially inhibit me from getting back up only exacerbated the apprehension.  At any rate, the desire to stay cool on the ice skating rink overwhelmed the childlike desire within to want to learn something new without the shadow of failure cast over the process of learning.

Eventually, welcome week BBQ at the pier turned into losing as Team DP with the brody, and soon I was on my way to Oxnard for our class hangout.  The food was good, but the joking fear continued mingling with every bite  I took, eventually satisfying my hunger with a lack of appetite.

As the minutes dwindled until it came time for me to face my greatest fear of the day, the Korean BBQ I had just consumed began crying for a mutiny within.

10 people to get the discount.  Well, I guess there was no getting out of this one.

Holly had to show me how to lace my ice skates first because I was a big-time amateur, and soon I was skeptically wobbling over to the lockers, where we put all our stuff.  Whew.  The rink awaited.

At first, holding onto the wall was seemingly my only lifeline.  Children of various ages cheerily held onto the wall or skated around expertly, making the snow seem about as adverse as a gentle marshmallow platform.  I, on the other hand, hobbled around the rink like the sixty-year-old man that I am at heart, devoid of the luxury of holding onto the wall due to a group of children occupying the wall space.  And so, I plodded along uncertainly, taking a step at a time to gain a feel for the slippery plane of embarrassment beneath my feet.  As time passed, the old rollerblading motion made itself accessible once again, and confidence began to grow.  Pace gradually picked up, and my brothers and sisters whisked by me,  proffering words of encouragement with every brisk stride they took.  The night grew older, and soon the exhilaration of speed replaced the tension of fear, and before I knew it, the night was over.

I’d like to say thanks to the people who went to the Channel Islands Ice Center with me today, one by one, because without you all, there’s no way I would have made it.  Y’all are the real MVPs.

Benny, thank you for skating slowly with me during the beginning of the night.  I know you didn’t have to go at my slow pace, but you did, and knowing that you were there and being able to talk to you was a big help to me at the beginning of the night.  It also brought a smile to my face whenever I would be near you and you would throw little bits of ice at me; something about the joy you took in that lit up my night as well.

Ranielle, thank you for the high five you gave me as you were practicing skating backwards.  It was a small gesture, but it made me happy knowing that at that moment, you too were learning and working on something, and it took off the burden to try and be good at something I was doing for the first time.  Your smile every time I saw you at various points of the rink reminded me of how I was supposed to be having fun and relaxing with my class.

Victoria, thank you for inspiring me with how graceful you were on the ice.  It is always such a blessing to see someone working in their element, and I feel like watching you skate on the ice rink today was exactly that.  Although I will never attain your level of proficiency on the ice, it was a real treat to see you spinning around without losing a step.

Scott, thank you for zipping around and showing me all the cool things that can happen on ice.  And also thank you for driving! But mostly for doing the skateboarding thing and also the running on ice; you are just a wizard in the winter sports realm.  Watching you move around and teaching members of our class was so encouraging because of how you just wanted to share you delight in ice skating.

Terrance, thank you for calming me down (or trying to) before I actually stepped on the ice.  You helped me laugh off some of the fear that was building up within me, and it was also particularly heartwarming seeing you and Irene skating in rhythm together hehe.  You really helped to take the pressure off of needing to succeed on the ice rink, and reminded me that “ice skating is pretty fun.” Kek.

Irene, thank you for coming out of nowhere and talking to me, quickly followed by Holly.  I know we don’t talk much, but thanks for talking to me when you were going slow enough to have the chance.  It was also really funny watching you and Holly holding hands and skating together because I wouldn’t have expected anything different from you two.

Holly, thank you for just being the trillmaster and helping me tie my right ice skate because I was a big noob and didn’t know how to.  Also, you constantly encouraged me by saying how impressed and proud you were of me, as well as challenging me to be even better by telling me to take longer strides when I was skating.  Watching you skating and taking pictures was also really quite impressive.

Lukey, thank you for always just smiling this smug little smile (that actually wasn’t smug, but one that sprung forth out of happiness at my progress) every time you passed by me.  As usual, it was a joy to see you just being good at stuff, and when you did that little spinny thing when you had the camera was cool, even though you said you didn’t mean to do it, but I know you’re just being humble ;)

Ben Chan, thank you for having the courage to admit that it was scary to go fast.  I think that I really understood you when you said that; though it might have seemed like I was having no problems, it was actually that I had an unfair advantage in that I had rollerbladed before.  Your perseverance pushed me to continue persevering as well, and it showed me something about going different paces and just hearing my own drummer.

All in all, it was a brilliant evening that I think really was a great time of bonding for our class.  Even though a few people couldn’t go, hopefully they can the next time because it was totally worth it.  On the surface, it would appear that we just ice skated, but I’d like to imagine that the small notes above say otherwise.  I learned a lot spiritually being on that ice and needing to be humbled while also remembering how to take joy in Christ, and I learned all of that just by watching all of you.  I can honestly say with real love in my heart that I’m blessed to have met all of you, AACF Class of 2016, and that you are all my greatest daily inspirations. Thank you for today.

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