Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meeting the twin

A convo between me and my best friend before meeting the twin sister of the girl.

Me: I think I'm actually pretty nervous about this meeting. I have to make a good impression.
BFF: It's ok man. Just be yourself.
Me: You think I should be all of me? I was thinking I should start off small and... you know... Albanize over time.
BFF: Yes. That's better.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Encierro, part 4 of 4: The Bull Ring

Part 4 is the bull ring. Things aren't over once the run is complete. They shut the doors. This is both to keep anybody else from coming in, as well as keep anybody who is in from going out. The stands are filled with people who bought tickets to watch the bull run on the big screen tv, and to watch what was about to happen next.

The runners stand in the middle of the ring. There are hundreds of them. Some manage to climb the wall and jump out of the ring, while others hold on to the wall for dear life. The remaining runners stay in the center.

One at a time, a young bull is released into the ring. They are there for the runners to "play" with; To pretend to be matadors and dodge out of the way of a charging bull. Keep in mind that a young bull is still 800 lbs. Even though the horns are taped up to prevent goring, you can still get hurt pretty badly by these bulls.

Now, I have no stories to tell you about what happened next. Not on facebook anyways. My mom will read them. And there are some things that moms just don't want (or need) to know about. No, these are the stories that can only be told face to face and be passed along by word of mouth. Because no matter how brave a person is, there comes a time when that person will fear the wrath of his mom much more than 12 running bulls.

The Encierro, part 3 of 4: The Bull Run

I was running.

It wasn't an all out sprint but it wasn't leisurely either. Shouting filled my ears as I heard the cow bells grow closer. The person behind me had a hand on me. Partially to keep his balance, partially to push me forward.

"I can't go any faster," I thought. There's no where to go. There are people in front of me. Part of me thought about swatting his hand away, for fear of him knocking me down. I was too busy staying upright to make the attempt.

Suddenly, the person in front of me starts to fall down. Instantly, I see a pile up of people at his feet. I high stepped over and around them. I can't afford to fall down. I can't afford be stopped here. I wasn't even concerned about getting trampled at this point. I was more focused on making it into the bull ring.

I regained my balance and continued the run. The hand was no longer on my shoulder, but I knew another person will soon take his spot.

I never looked back.

Suddenly, the cow bells were upon us. The people who were in the center pushed towards the side. I, who was left center, was moved closer to the wall. I looked to my right. Mighty bulls were rumbling past me. It brought to mind the earth shaking created by a herd of bison on the great plains. I was in awe. I was about 2 meters to the side of the bulls, so I felt reasonably secure that I was safe. But those were just the ones to my side. There is no telling where the bulls were behind me.

To my right, I saw someone go down under a bull. He was probably trampled. I told myself he will probably be ok.

Finally, the last bull of the pack moved ahead of me. Wanting to stay with them and not get left behind, I pushed towards center. "How many bulls just passed me? Was that all of them? Were there others far behind?" I didn't hear cow bells, so I took the risk and moved towards center.

As we came out of the street into the open air, I saw the bull ring in front of me. Almost there. I watched the door to make sure it wasn't closing. I needed to get inside. Just another 20 meters to go.

Suddenly, I tripped on another pile of people. The person behind me fell on top of me. I was on one hand and two feet, down by football terms. "Should I stay down as the rules suggest? Or should I keep going?" I quickly pushed back upright as one of the police officers tried to push me back down.

I stumbled to the gate, crashing into a wall as I dodged around bodies.

I ran through the tunnel, hoping to not fall again.

I made it through the other side.

The entire ring was filled with cheers from the stands. Other runners were in the center of the ring with me, raising their hands in victory. I raised my arms with them and shouted for joy.

The Encierro, part 2 of 4: The Stand

I wrote my bull run experience in four parts. The second part was the most interesting to me. Out of the entire run, this was the most intense, and certainly the most heart pounding. At no other time was the fear more palpable than this. The tension of waiting along with the decision to stand my ground as others rushed past me increased to a crescendo at this point, breaking only when I turned and began to run. I hope that this tidbit will help to share with you the experience I had.

"Run! They're coming!"

And just like that, people everywhere exploded in a running frenzy.

I ran about 20 meters before I started to slow down. At 30, I stopped completely. I turned around to look. People continued to run by me. I thought to myself, I didn't hear any rockets yet. (The first rocket signifies that the door has been opened. The second signifies that all the bulls have left their pens). I then asked myself, was I too far away to hear them?

I looked back to where I previously stood. There were still a few people standing there who had not moved an inch. "Crap. Another false alarm." This was shredding at my already exposed nerves.

Like a fish swimming upstream, I jogged back to my previous position while other people were still running past me. I asked one of the guys still standing there what time it was in Spanish.

"One minuto" he told me.

The tension in the air was thick. Many people were jittery. Some of the other runners had realised it was a false alarm and stopped as well. They did not come back. Others continued to run anyways.

Then I heard it. A faint, but clear explosion. The crowd in the balconies surrounding us let up a great roar. Seconds later, a second explosion was heard.

People began to run again. All around me, people were yelling and running down the path.

I stood my ground. Several others stood their ground with me. I refused to run too early. I refused to be one of the first to enter the bull ring. I refused to compromise this experience by running before the bulls were even near me. I needed to see them.

More and more people began to pick up and run. The running crowd grew thicker. People started pushing past me. I was an obstacle to them. If I was a fish swimming upstream before, now I was a rock withstanding the crashing tides of the ocean.

I heard the people up in the balconies let up a great roar again. "The bulls must have just come around dead man's corner and made it onto my street," I thought. I heard the roar in the balconies slowly make its way up from the end of the street towards me, like a wave of sound.

"They getting closer. It is almost time," I thought.

By now, there were so many people running around me that I couldn't see anything. I was blind. I didn't see anyone standing still anymore. Everyone was running.

"How far away were the bulls?"

I started to jump up as high as I could. I saw people who had climbed up walls and were now hanging onto the second floor balcony. They were waiting for the bulls to pass before they started running. I saw a wall of people coming at me, thicker than the rest. They were about 50 feet away. I couldn't see the bulls. Were they behind them or in front of them? I kept jumping.

All around me, it was madness as people were desperately running past me, shoving me around in the process. Shouting. Fear and panic were painted on their faces. Hundreds of people have already run by.

40 feet away.

"Nerves of steel. Nerves of steel." I kept telling myself. I breathed deeply and forced myself to stay. It dawned on me that the bulls are running faster than that wall of people, and when the bulls pierce through, they would be right upon me, standing right in the center of the street. "I need to move soon."

30 feet away.

Seconds passed. Then I heard it. The sound of cow bells.

I turned around and began to run.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fate, Destiny and Calling: A long term perspective

As opposed to a short term perspective, which could be exemplified by statements of "Oh, I found a quarter, it's fate that I should have this and buy a gumball from the candy machine!" In my more cynical moments, I would characterize this invocation of fate as weakness or feeblemindedness. In my more open minded moments, I would characterize this as living out the ideals of fate to its full potential, and adhering to it with the same tenacity a Bible thumping southern grandma would to her faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing sovereign God.

But that is neither here nor there.

This is less a blog entry than it is a thought dump. I hope to come back again to this post once these thoughts have been distilled and I can rewrite this with more direction and purpose.


Ah, purpose. There it is. Aren't they all synonyms when used in a long term perspective? Fate, destiny, calling, purpose… it's all the same. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, male or female, married or unmarried, Christian or not. The desire for more, a meaning and purpose, is there.

I wonder if it is inherent. Is this built in? Are we designed this way? My friend says no. In a recent conversation, he suggested that the idea of purpose is a recent development. That as recently as three generations ago, the main purpose in life for a man was to make a living and to provide for his family. It wasn't until recently that we wanted to do more than that.

But I counter with this: We are now living in a culture wealthy enough to have a reasonable expectation of providing for our family and more. Our wealth may now obligate us to use our abundance for the good of others. Since we have now gained for ourselves the stability and safety that we seek, shouldn't we now help others to gain and achieve the same?


Friend: Some people, when they think they have discovered their calling, they stop trying. They simply wait for it all to happen, as if it were expected. Entitled.

Me: Hmm. That's interesting. I never thought of it that way. The way I have always seen it was that as soon as I figure out what my calling is, I'd put everything I have into it. I would do little to nothing else. I would do everything I can to fulfill that calling to the best of my ability.

It's taken me a week of sitting on that exchange, but I've come to the realization that neither response is particularly healthy or balanced.


Me: Don't waste your life. That's a compelling title for a book.

Friend: Yes. John Piper writes some pretty good, straight to the point books.

Me: Have you read it?

Friend: No, I think I stopped somewhere towards the middle

Me: Yeah, I was the same way with Desiring God. I couldn't even get past the first chapter.

… Lots of dialogue about many things on the topic of calling and fear of wasting my life.

Me: Have you ever heard of the perspective of your first calling and second calling? (Ironically, a quick google search brought up these two results, which with some similarities can be drawn: Second Calling and Half Time)

Friend: No.

Me: Well, it's entirely possible that I just made it all up. Anyways, it's the idea that your first calling is to be a disciple of Christ. To follow Him and grow in that. And your second calling is what you do with yourself once you have become a Christian. How to live out the rest of your days.


And I've been wrestling with this for a long time. Every new season of my life, as I transition out of something I've been doing into the unknown. Every time I see other people pursue their dream and seemingly make large strides towards progress, I wrestle with this. And inevitably, I always come back to Micah 6:8… "And what has the Lord required of you, oh man? But to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."


Me: And I think in my most centered of moments, when I am most centered in God and trusting completely in Him, I can look at that verse and think to myself, "yes. This is enough." It's because I know that in every season of my life, every day of my life, I have brought Christ with me. I have brought Living Waters and all that I have learned with me. I know that I bear fruit in all that I do. And it is enough. It is enough to be in Christ and to live out my life well. My first calling is sufficient.

But when I am not centered. When I am watching my peers blow by me and go on to be and do great things, I start to wonder. I doubt. I fear. I become afraid that I'm wasting my life. What was previously enough suddenly isn't enough. And that drives me to want to do more. To be more. To be great. No. Not necessarily to be great, because that's just about me. It's more about… doing great things. To live a life worth living and to not waste it. It's the drivenness that alerts me to something being wrong. I know this logically. But my heart. The fear. It's real.

[more dialogue]

Friend: It sounds like the first calling is about being. And the second calling about doing. You are right to say that the first calling is the most important, because out of the being comes the doing. Most people don't get that. They start with the doing in order to become. That's where they get lost, as they are working towards a false sense of being and a false sense of self. I think if you are committed to your first calling of being a disciple, God will be faithful to reveal to you your second calling of doing.


Many more things were said, and many more things were processed, but I am a little too tired to thought dump anymore. I hope to revisit this during my vacation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The end of plan B

Me: I'm going to give you a choice. You can either go on vacation this weekend or you can follow through with plan B. I want you to give this some thought. Let me know your answer because I'll have to get plane tickets tonight if you're flying out tomorrow.
Coworker: Ok. I'll think about it.

15 minutes later, I get this in my email:


As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for me to make a choice between Plan B and [Vacation Plans]. You are well aware that Plan B is 'so very close to my heart' but then when I think about it further, I realize that you ought to lose a lot to gain some. Therefore, after a lot of brain racking, with extreme sadness, I opt for [Vacation Plans]. I choose the difficult option of 'living my remaining days' rather than the far easier and convenient option of 'dying a most satisying death.'


Well done, Coworker. Well done. Go and live out your remaining days as you so choose. I applaud your well thought response.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An honest appraisal

After coming back from a meeting

Me [Frustrated]: It's getting closer.
Coworker: Oh no.
Me: Yes. It's going to happen.
Coworker: Plan B?
Me: No. Not that.
Coworker: We're going to duel to the death?
Me: No. Worse.
Coworker: Oh no. Oh God no.
Me: Say it.
Coworker: I'm going to have to take over your position.
Me: Can you think of anything worse?
Coworker: There is nothing worse than that.
Me: You're going to have to man up. You're going to have to grow another set of balls. Maybe four or five of them.
Coworker [trembling, whispering]: I don't think that's going to be enough.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A different kind of strategery

Me: Ok. We're in crisis mode. We're skipping completely over plan B and going straight to plan C.
Coworker: What's plan C?
Me: I'm flying out to Wisconsin to try to calm down the customer, fix all their problems, and make magic happen.
Coworker: Can you really do all of that?
Me: No. Probably not. So we're going to have to keep plan B open as an option. Do you remember plan B?
Coworker: Yes.
Me: Are you ready to do plan B?
Coworker: I think so.
Me: That's not good enough. I need to know you can do this. Can you commit to plan B? Are you ready to do this?
Coworker: Yes. Yes I can.

Flashback to several weeks ago

Me: You take Customer A. They have 140 dispensers. I need you to fix them. All of them. You have until Friday.
[Some dialogue]
Coworker: But what if I fail? What do I do if I can't fix them all?
Me: We go to plan B.
Coworker: What's plan B?
Me: You fly to Wisconsin and you apologize profusely to the customer for not being able to fix his stuff.
Coworker: What do I do if that isn't enough?
Me: You set yourself on fire.

Flash back to the present

Me: Remember, the whole purpose of plan B is to get the customer to feel so bad for you that he isn't mad at us anymore. So you have to make sure he sees you when you set yourself on fire.
Coworker: Ok. I got it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Anatomy of an adultry

They have 3 kids. He a teacher. She a theologian and a ministry leader. They have a beautiful and warm house.

It was a home.

I remember evening dinners, lengthy and deep conversations, playing with the kids and movie nights. Starting up the wood fireplace and telling stories until we fell sleep.

I looked up to them. I wanted what they had. I hoped to have even a fraction of what they had some day.

So how could it end? And how can their mutual friends look on and watch as she left for another man? How they manage to continue calling her friend and laugh as if nothing happened bewilders me. It crushes my heart. I can't understand how this is acceptable. And the more I find out and the more I uncover, the more my heart breaks.

I'm not ok with this

Saturday, May 8, 2010


means freedom.

I think I'm about to go out and wander like a puppy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

waking up to the sound of music

Got a phone call at 5:30am this morning. Thought it was my boss again. Turned out to be a friend. What a wonderful way to wake up. Timely encouragement. I've only been out here a week, but I'm ready to throw myself off the roof. At least for now, that readiness is dissipated.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Familiar enough that the front desk knows me by name.
Familiar enough to call my hotel room "home" when I received my keys.
Familiar enough to have "my" breakfast waitress exclaim in delight to see me.
Familiar enough to receive a line of hugs from customers when I entered the facility.
Familiar enough to see old oppugners quickly change route to circle around me.
Familiar enough to leave my gps off.
Familiar enough to walk, not drive, to the grocery store (and have a discount card for the regional chain).
Familiar enough to give directions to the locals.
Familiar enough to bypass tourist attractions and instead settle into an armchair in a used book store and fall promptly asleep.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Strange goodbyes

Sarah McLachlan's "I will remember you" is playing in the background.

Sarah: I will remember you
Me: Don't Cry. I'll be back soon.
Sarah: Will you remember me?
Coworker: Oh god. I hope so.
Me: It's just going to be a couple weeks.
Coworker: The more you say this, the less convinced I am.
Me: Everything is going to be alright.
Coworker: [sarcastically] Oh, that makes me feel a whole lot better.

Sarah: Weep not for the memories...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Liberal interpretations

Me: It's all falling apart.
Coworker: What is?
Me: This whole situation. The angry customers. It's all going to pot.
Coworker: What do we do?
Me: I have a plan; divide and conquer. We'll divy up the work. You do your thing and I'll do mine. We'll meet each other on the other side.
Coworker: Ok.
Me: You take Customer A. They have 140 dispensers. I need you to fix them. All of them. You have until Friday.
Coworker: [laughing nervously] Uh...are you serious?
Me: [ignoring the question] I will take Customers B and C. They have 10,000 dispensers. I have to have an answer for them by tomorrow. So that's it. That's the plan. Let's do it. I'll see you on Friday.
Coworker: Wait. I have a question.
Me: Yes?
Coworker: Are we allowed to help each other?
Me: [Stares blankly]
Coworker: In other words, can you help me out with this?
Me: What do you think?
Coworker: You have no choice.
Me: [exhales deeply] This must be my penance.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thinly veiled

Me: [Whistling the tune of "Every breath you take" by the Police]
Coworker: I don't like that song anymore.
Me: You still remember that?
Coworker: Yes.

Flashback to over a year ago. It is only a few weeks after the coworker started working/training under me. I am driving him home in my car. The song comes on the radio.

Coworker: Oh. I like this song.
Me: Yeah? Sting?
Coworker: Yes. It's a good song.
Me: [singing]

♪ Every breath you take ♫
♪ and every move you make ♫
♪ Every bond you break ♫
♪ Every step you take, ♫

I'll be watching you

Coworker: [Nervous laughter]

Me: [more menacingly]
♪ Every single day ♫
♪ and every word you say ♫
♪ Every game you play ♫
♪ Every night you stay, I'll be watching you ♫

Coworker: Oh god.
Me: Wait, here comes the good part.

[with gusto]
♪ Oh can't you see you belong to me? ♫
♪ How my poor heart aches with every step you take ♫

Coworker: [laughter, followed by silence]

Me: [continuing singing]
♪ Every move you make and every vow you break ♫
♪ Every smile you fake ♫
♪ Every claim you stake, I'll be watching you ♫

Coworker: I don't think I like this song anymore.
Both: [laughter]
Me: Yeah, this is a pretty ridiculous song out of context. I guess it's pretty bad even in context.

Back to the present
The whistling has stopped. Both are working in silence for a few minutes.

Me: S?
Coworker: Yes Alban.
Me: You belong to me.
Coworker: I know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

High hopes

Me: Come with me.
Coworker: Where are we going?
Me: We're going outside to have a fistfight.
Coworker: A what?
Me: A duel. To the death. Using only our fists.
Coworker: Oh my.
Me: Are you ready to kill me? Are you ready to take my life?
Coworker: Um.. I don't think so.
Me: Well get ready. This does not end until someone dies.
Coworker: Why are we fighting?
Me: The winner will get all of this.
Coworker: All of what?
Me: This. My job. All of it. It'll be a big promotion for you.
Coworker: So I can die slowly?
Me: Yes.
Coworker: Forget the duel. Just kill me now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I usually keep my mouth shut

But I'm getting tired of hearing Christians complain about healthcare and taking care of the poor. I also usually try to pick my battles wisely... arguing with a friend of a friend over the internet is not my idea of a wise investment of time or effort.

I guess that makes me 0 for 2 today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's been awhile

Today, I share music. And the more I listen to this, the more I want to hear it again.

The talent is obvious. Many people have it; it's what you do with it that sets you apart. She's not just a performer, she feels her music. She means what she sings. That's how a performance is done, with all your heart and all your being.

I think that is one of the main reasons why dancing is so enjoyable to me. Dancing is nothing less than becoming a part of the song, to allow it to flow through you and to be incorporated into the music. It is more than a physical expression of song, it is allowing your heart to fully embody the music and then moving in rhythm and flow of the phrases.

Ritardando. Crescendo. Con fuoco. Staccato! Oh yes.

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big night tonight

Trying to get a lot of stuff done before possibly flying out on Saturday (still haven't heard whether I'm staying or going yet.)

I've already gotten quite a few errands done tonight. Now I've got to get my taxes finished.

As always, my emotions betray me. When I need to get something technical done, my heart goes the other way. There needs to be some kind of on/off switch for this kind of thing.

I'm playing WSQX in the background. I'm hoping that will do the trick.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yippy Kai Yay

What else needs to be said?

Alban: Faren, take me home to Woodstock.
Motorcycle: VROOM VROOM!!

For posterity

I came to two revelations today.

The first one was actually a repeating theme over the last couple months: The idiots are winning. Due to sheer numbers, they are winning and will continue to win. It's not quite the positive revelation that I would like to remember, but it was funny enough to write down and hopefully laugh about in the future. I know one day, I will look back on this and realize how hard I am today towards other people and how I will have grown to be softer in the future. The general trend is pointing that way, so I am fairly comfortable assuming that I will eat those words in the not so far distant future.

The second is not really a true revelation either, but also worth noting. I am looking for peers in the wrong age group. I should be looking within people much, much younger. Peers of the heart. Unbridled enthusiasm; an enjoyment of life unconstrained by social norms. Children are my heart's peer.

I had an amazing time reuniting with Todd and his kids tonight. From giving lessons on riding motorcycles, to giving lessons on breakdancing, and receiving lessons on karate (and spanish!), mingled with lots of hugs and flinging and hanging upside down, it was a heartfilling night.

Humorous moment of the night

Todd and his oldest daughter S, who is turning 15 this year, and I were talking about preparing for driving next year. More importantly, we were talking about getting her a helmet and a leather jacket so she can go riding on the back of a bike with us this year. As we were giving her tips on being a passenger, I let her onto my bike and showed her the controls and what they all were. As she was sitting on my bike, I slid the keys in.

Alban: Do you want to hear what it really sounds like?
Todd: Danger!
S: Sure!

We talk her through how to flip the switches and hit the right buttons while making sure she stays in neutral and the back tire never touches the ground.

Finally, the moment of truth.

S: [takes a deep breath, and presses the ignition.]

VROOM! The bike starts right up.

Todd [sniffles]

Alban: Awww... Todd! It's ok! She's still got another year left. She isn't growing up too fast!
S: Yeah dad... it's ok.
Todd: No... [sniffles again] It's not that. She presses one button on your bike and it starts right up. I have to wrestle and twist and fight with mine to even get a sound out of it.
Alban: Um... yes. We will get your bike up and running again so you can ride too...

Sentimental moment of the night

After a long night of lessons and dancing and flinging and wrestling, M, the youngest and the most tomboyish of Todd's daughters is snuggled up to me on the couch.

We have a rich history of her refusing to give me hugs, calling me names and taunting me, and pretending to give me a high five, only to pull away and say "sucker!" at the last minute. The significance of this moment was not lost upon me. More importantly, neither was the next.

M: Do you want to have kids one day?
Alban: Yes. And I hope I have one just like you.

We stayed there on the couch watching the other kids wrestle and play for the next 10 minutes.

Precious moments. I hope these moments will stay with them for as long as they will stay with me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Making the best of what I've got

March 13: slept.
March 14: slept and processed and slept some more.
March 15: slept, worked, reconnected, and began making future plans/acting on them.
March 16: got my motorcycle out of storage and began prepping for riding season. Caught up with a good friend and had an amazing (unplanned) 2 hour dinner. Ordered turbotax.
March 17: went to LW, cried my eyes out, then cried some more while praying for group members. Then received some really great news about the work God has been doing.

Habitual productivity and the realistic concern of getting sent back out soon has pushed me to be even more productive than usual. I am ok with this. At least, for the time being, I am being productive for me and the people around me.

Looking forward to the days ahead. There is a lot to do. But I have the confidence that a lot will get done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When coming home doesn't feel like coming home

I went back into work today and saw my desk calendar was still on December 3, 2009. It was the last day I was at my desk before the trips to Denver began. I came back for a two week period for Christmas, and then went off again. I came back again for another two week break, and I have been gone ever since. I have effectively been gone since early December, which makes this the longest stretch I have ever been away from Binghamton since I had summer breaks in college. What a world of difference it was to come back on Saturday.

I did not intentionally drive through the run down part of town when I came home from the airport. It was one of many familiar routes I could have chosen. This one avoided the highway. But it also caused me to see the great contrast between the growing metropolis in Denver and the dying town in Binghamton. It was downright depressing. I mourned as I drove through, although I didn't know why I was feeling it at the time. I had intended to drive straight to my friends' place to attend the planned festivities. Instead, I drove straight home. I wasn't able to be around people in that moment.

For the rest of the evening and for most of Sunday, I stayed in that state of mourning. I had invitations to see good friends, but I wasn't ready yet. I had shut down such a significant part of myself while I was away that the sudden realization of what I had lost was overwhelming. I am still trying to process that now.

Working the hours I did was not a problem. I found that my experience working long hours between my job and church well prepared me for going the distance in Colorado. However, what I was not prepared for was being cut off from I live for. The others guys I worked with found what they have always been (superficially) looking for in alcohol, strip clubs, and fancy restaurants. For them, it was an upgrade in life, even though they had to pay for it with uncommonly long hours. However, I don't live for those things. I live for community, for building each other up, and for doing the work of God.

Although I was able to do many of those things, being away from church and people who would normally invest in me was much harder than I had anticipated. I had to be "on" almost all the time. I led when there was no one else to lead the way. I gave much more than I received. And I gave constantly. I'm grateful that I was able to minister and serve others, especially unexpectedly through my job, but I have a limit to how long I can be firm and yet stay soft. In the end, I poured hot wax over my wounds. I hardened my heart to my own needs and remained soft to the needs of others. When I drove through those run down streets of Binghamton, I couldn't convince myself to see my friends and be real with them. Festivities are not a time to ask for healing tears.

And so I drove through those dying streets of a dying town that I had trouble recognizing. A town I have been so much a part of for so long, but now wonder what my place, if any, is in it. I know it like the back of my hand but now I see it with new eyes. Eyes that cause to me to ask, shall I stay or shall I go?

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I walked up to the observation deck, wondering what there was to see. The conveyor for baggage claim was broken, so I knew there would be a few minutes to spare. As I entered the darkened room, I was surprised to see someone else already there. He stood off to the side, looking out the window. As I approached, I saw that there was a small plane beginning to pull away from the building.

I walked up to the window, keeping a respectful distance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him lean forward and rest his forehead against the glass. He thought better and quickly leaned back. He continued to stare outwards. I did the same.

The plane quickly went behind the building and drove out of sight. We continued to watch anyways, waiting for it to come out onto the runway and take off.

A sense of loss permeated the room.

Minutes passed. Silence stood between us as the rain whipped against the window in the darkness. The light from the lighthouse rhythmically struck the sky.

Twice, he gave up and started to walk away.

Twice, he saw me standing there looking out that window, and turned back to wait it out a little longer.

Out of a sense of duty, I stayed there with him.

Finally, we heard a great roar, and the plane shot into the air in front of us. He pressed his right hand against the glass as the plane hurtled away into the western sky.

A breath.

He turned and limped away before the flashing lights disappeared into the night.

Below me, I heard the conveyor start to move and luggage drop onto the rotating belt. It was time to go home.

I just walked in the door. It is alien. Unfamiliar. And unsettling.

I don't like this feeling.

Ending on a high note

I didn't overstress on my last day here. In fact, I don't think I stressed much at all. There were a couple of points during the day where I was upset at the way my antagonist was treating me and some of my other coworkers, but I am accepting that it has nothing to do with me. It is totally her. She has no call to be rude in the way that she has been. I let myself off the hook; I am no longer trying to figure out what I did wrong; It was her all along.

I received a lot of hugs and handshakes as the day began to end. I actually started receiving them yesterday, because not everyone was coming in today. Phone numbers, email, and even mailing addresses were exchanged. It can't get much more validating than having so many people personally seek me out and ask to stay in touch. One lady even gave me her family's secret recipe for a favorite dish.

I will never tell a soul.

It's amazing what a difference two weeks make. If I had left as scheduled when I was supposed to, this would have been a catastrophe. My acting manager would have had to come in and try to pick up from where I left off. Undoubtedly, and this is not a strike against him, it would have gotten worse if he had tried to do so. But instead, I was able to give my manager a tour of the facility and its operations today and show him how well things were going. In fact, today was the best day we have ever run. People clapped at the ring of the closing bell when they saw how much we had accomplished.

Peace. Satisfaction. And again, peace, especially of mind. Don't get me wrong, things are still pretty bad out here. We will be scrambling and busting our butts for months to come. But I can leave here knowing that I have brought order to chaos in the area of my responsibility, and I have left things significantly better than they were before I came.


If this had just been about work, I don't think I would really care. What makes this so different is that I was able to touch lives. I lived a good testimony. I preached the gospel (to some extent) with my actions. Praise God for that. The difficulty and sacrifice was well worth it. Praise God.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung my flaming tongues above

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Loyal to a fault

I've had a lot of things to be unhappy about recently. And I've been trying not to let them get me down. But losing a "friend" is a little unsettling. I respect and admire that we asians tend to be loyal and we stick together with the people we love. But somewhere along the way, I learned a revolutionary (to me) thought; do not take up someone else's offenses.

I used to think that the right thing to do was to hate the person my friend hates, even if that third person was also my friend. I had to stick up for the ones I love. But I have come to decide that this wasn't for me anymore. If I have beef with someone because of a conflict that doesn't involve me, I need to clear the air and settle it. Escalating the conflict didn't resolve anything. It just meant I lost a friend without making an attempt at reconciliation.

And so, I find myself in a position where one person has beef with me, and has turned another friend against me. Granted, their friendship with each other goes back a lot further than my friendship with either of them. I only met them when I came to Colorado. But if I'm here to help you, and to work with you, you need to be able to work with me too. At the very least, be professional. The cold shoulder, the ignoring my presence, etc. is very childish. You're older than me. You're supposed to be a senior representative of your company. Act like it.

I'm frustrated because I need to work with these people. I'm frustrated because I've worked my ass off to win over their respect and trust, and I lose it overnight because of overzealous asian loyalty. And I'm frustrated because I don't like to lose friends.

Everyone else went out to lunch. I needed a moment to hang back and recoup. I still have a job to do, and I'm not going to let petty personal things get in the way.

Before you cross the street, take my hand

I received an unusual complaint tonight. I was told that I was working too hard and that I needed to take it down a notch. It's not that other people are necessarily slacking off and I was making them look bad. Rather, it's because they somehow feel that I am learning too much about their area of expertise and I have become the customer's go-to-person for problems related to their field. I have been asked to stick to my own area of work and to stop solving their problems, regardless of how much help I am providing.

I'm not quite sure what to do with this information.

Watched half of Mr. Holland's Opus last night, and the second half tonight. The conflicting emotions of joy, sadness, inspiration and loss are confusing. I guess all of that comes with the territory when reminiscing and wondering.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Give and take

I find myself at a familiar crossroads.

It was probably 8 years ago when I asked an old sage a difficult question; How do I do both X and Y when both will demand my full heart and full commitment. The old sage answered, "just learn to say no." I wrestled with this answer for months, if not years. And after all this time, I still have not been able to reconcile her answer. In fact, I am even willing to go so far as say that she is wrong. That she didn't really understand my question. And that she wasn't really a sage at all. I don't think she was ever faced with the divide that I felt and still feel now. While it is true I was overcommitted to many things at the time, she never understood the heart of my question. She could not comprehend that one dream would have to be compromised in order to fulfill the other.

I cannot have my cake and eat it too.

If there is anyone who can tell me not only that it is possible, but how it can be possible, I will be all ears. But I will not stand for false dreams. Show me that it can be done. Or else keep your mouth shut. I will not chase the Holy Grail that represents the complete fulfillment of my heart; I do not think it will be accomplished in this lifetime here on earth. Heaven waits on the other side; I am unconvinced it can be achieved here on earth.

So for now, I am faced with the same question I have been asking myself for quite some time now. Am I living to attain or am I living to give away? Actually, I think I have already answered this in my heart a long time ago. So the real question is, to what am I giving myself to? I have been waiting for open doors and I am confused by the silence.

Perhaps my mistake was in the waiting. I am wondering if now is the time to ask, seek and knock.

Forget the wondering. I've become emboldened to knock.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Things to be thankful for

Driving to work and finally seeing the sun rise again. (Which is ironic, because before this trip, I never got up before the sunrise.)

Having a 3 minute conversation with a manager who cares after being driven crazy for four days by a manager who doesn't.

Waking up to a really nice voicemail from a really fine lady.

Getting hand me downs from the people who get to go home.

Wearing a pink shirt and getting compliments on it (amongst other comments).

Turning around a customer who had been upset, skeptical, and frustrated for weeks.

Feeling the sun on my face and getting to wear a new pair of sunglasses.

Seeing and hearing motorcycles on the road.

Feeling the love from several customers after having been made an emotional punching bag for days.

Having a character flaw gently pointed out to me, and realizing what I need to work on to become a better person.

Starting to wean people off of me and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.


Getting a phone call from my small group at the end of small group, and getting a chance to pray together.

Crying with my small group during said prayer.

Watching the end of Monster's Inc. and remembering how much children love to share what they love with the people they love.

Falling asleep at the end of a long day.

Remembering that I'm not alone, that I don't have to do it all, and that there are people who love me, care for me, and want the best for me.

A God who gifts me with all these things.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The little things

Driving with the window down and the sun on my face. Listening to Moby and Juno Reactor. Electronica is more emotional than I remember. Or maybe there's something wrong with me.

It's been that kind of week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arise and eat

The physical aspect of this job has caught up to me. I'm so tired, I think I could sleep through the rest of this day, and the next day, and wake up sober on Tuesday morning. At that time, it would be nice to be awoken and fed by an angel, only to fall asleep again.

Ah, to dream.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A beautiful day

I have been tossing around and developing an idea for the better part of 2+ weeks. Admittedly, for the past week, I wrestled with whether or not it was worth pursuing, and how it might be received when implemented. Throughout the course of this day, though, I realized that I did not have it in me to resist this idea. There is something... right about sharing and giving. At this point in my life, I just can't help myself. (Although, 5 years ago, I don't think I would have thought or felt the same). There is a joy in sharing/giving that I cannot yet describe in words. It simply must be done.

The idea will be put to action. The results... well, I guess I'll see what happens.

Today was a beautiful day. It was too nice to not be shared.

Half full

I don't typically think of myself as an optimist. I would prefer to think of myself as a realist. It feels more respectable.

Today I am filled with a yearning. On a day where I have been given freedom, I am in search of beauty and things to enjoy and appreciate. With only a few hours available to me, it doesn't matter that the weather is terrible outside or that I have no idea where I am going. There is so much beauty in the world and I am going to avail myself to it.

...there is so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then i remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain ...and i can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

While Easter is a popular holiday and may be the most important Christian holiday (next to Christmas), many of us have a pretty weak understanding of what it is all about. For example, Easter often sneaks up on us: we may not even think of it until the annual church brunch is announced. ...

Lent is the antidote to this oversight. In the Western churches (of the Protestant variety) we don't participate in Lent, historically speaking. We are more comfortable with the joy and celebration of Easter than with the darkness that preceded it. But Lent is a chance to remember the dark before the dawn, the sin that sent Jesus to the cross. In the Orthodox Church, Lent is called the season of Bright Sadness, because it is a time of both celebration and mourning.

But you may well ask: why dwell on the darkness at all? After all, Jesus' work is done. Death has been conquered, Christ is victorious! The cross has answered it all; why should we be sad?

If the cross is the Answer, what exactly is the Question?

Before Christ, the world called out to God (in the words of David, King of Israel),

"How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire? " (Psalm 79.5)

Easter is the once-for-all-time answer to this question. Jesus took ourplace on the cross to appease God's righteous anger. He went alone to be punished: separated from God and deserted by his friends. The drama of how this happened is the story of Lent. ... Before the Resurrection comes crucifixion; before crucifixion comes prosecution; before prosecution comes betrayal, doubt, fear, rebellion, and sin.

Lent helps us experience our part in the Passion (suffering) of Jesus. We face our humanity during Lent: we learn that sin still dwells in us, that we still carry darkness. We learn that we, like his disciples, would likely have fallen asleep as Jesus prayed for deliverance in the garden, and, also, that we would likely have denied knowing him as he silently accepted his death sentence.


By the time I got back to the hotel, I realized that I had made the right choice. Becoming a recluse was never a real option; if I had chosen it, it would have been born out of a root of bitterness and selfishness. Like a child stomping off to his room after being punished and pausing to say "I hate you all and I'm never coming out again," before he closes the door, reclusion was a pouty way of saying "I'm angry that I can't have what I want." Which, of course, misses the entire point of Lent entirely.

Today, as my hands strayed towards seeking out what I had given up, I checked my heart and saw my heart motives; I am stressed. I am tired. I am hurting. And I am looking for release, soothing, comfort and shelter. And I sought those things in the comfort of my friends. And I'm not saying that is a bad thing; Certainly our God created us for community and to not be alone. But in that moment, I was alerted to the condition of my heart and the depth of my need. I saw my weakness and remembered my Jehovah Jireh. Instead of reaching out to friends through cyber space, I reached out to my Abba Father. Instead of putting out a cry for help to my friends, I whispered a prayer to my Yeshua.

Being aware of my heart condition is not something I have always had. Sadly, I must confess that it was my lack of immaturity that allowed this to go on for so long. Impulsively, I would act outwardly what I was feeling internally, before I even knew how my heart was feeling. Self control is another subject entirely; it isn't what I'm getting at here. I'm suggesting that knowing what I'm feeling allows me to address the needs of my heart in the most appropriate way when those needs arise.

Choosing to give and let go has helped me to see how much more I really have.

How Could I Ask For More

A conglomeration of thoughts

I've been meaning to write for several days now. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to do so. In no particular order, other than what comes to mind right now.

It's something I've always wanted. It's something I've gone without for the better part of my younger life. I think I experienced good, genuine, loving Christian community for the first time when I was in Australia, and when I came back, I was so inspired by the welcome and love I found that I tried to recreate it here in the States. It's been such a huge mission/passion for me over the years, and yet, I find that the more I grow as a Christian and a person, I find I am in more rarefied company. Ironic. Frustrating. And oftentimes heartbreaking.

The trouble with rarefied company is that it is difficult to find. Worse yet, the people I meet whom I can comfortably consider my peers are not people who generally stick around in one place for too long. We each have our own mission, our own calling. And these moments when we walk together before discovering that our lines no longer cross are simply there for a designed purpose. Encouragement? Affirmation? Proof that we are not alone? Inspiration? Maybe all of the above. Or none. Who am I to guess the intent of such intricate design? All I know is that I cherish those crossings and miss them tenderly when they are gone.

I have chosen to give up social networking sites. Twitter, facebook, etc. When I sit down to think of things I waste my time on, this is it. It's not like I have a lot of free time to spare when almost everything I do is invested into my company. But if there is one thing I do do for myself, it's trying to stay in touch with people, keeping up with what's going on, and every once in awhile, sending out a cry for help out of my frustration and semi-despair at my semi-isolation here in Denver. I'm still not sure if giving up social networking sites is really a good idea or not, since I sometimes feel it is my last tie to friends and community back at home. I fear this move will turn me back towards reclusiveness again, something I am trying to avoid. In the past, I have given up meat. Another year, I gave up cream and sugar in my coffee. I suspect that this year will be no less difficult. And it will have its desired effect: the pain of loss will press me further into the arms of my God.

What I ask for
And what is given to me... are two very different things. And I wrestled with this extensively on Saturday. As I fought through the emotions of it all, I recalled a heart stopping commitment I made to my God back in the summer. I meant it with sincerity and conviction then. My determination now to fulfill that commitment helped to soothe the turbulence. I accepted what I was given with thanksgiving. I released my grip.

Winds of Change
The breeze is picking up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It's the latest I've been up in days. It feels like weeks already. I have already reacclimated to the way of life here. It's not difficult. Work all day. Come "home." Work some more. But the work is not what I had expected. With our entire system down for the past two days, the frenetic crisis resolution I had expected to be occupied with has not occurred. I have had time to think. To plan. To diagnose. To document. It's been a relative vacation. In this time, I have invested significantly in mentoring and building relationships. It's great that my underling has finally started to realize how much he doesn't know and is willing to listen to me from time to time; We tend to have good conversations and the transfer of understanding, not just knowledge, has been satisfying. Of course, he is still the youthful braggert he always is, and wastes no opportunity to try to take me down a notch to show me what a big boy he is. I suppose this is acceptable for now, as he always manages to get both feet stuck in his mouth. I have to tread the line carefully though. It's treacherous to try to play friend/mentor/ and supervisor all at once, and the boundaries are difficult to maintain.

Today, I even had a small opportunity to be mentored as well. The affirmation is... I have no vocabulary word to describe it. I have always respected and enjoyed the man who has become the project manager. I think I have enjoyed him even more after taking a car ride with him into the mountains and having a chance to get to know each other more. The fact that he too is an INFJ helps immensely. So the fact that I suspect that there may be a target on his back and that he may become the fall guy concerns me greatly. I tried to broach the subject with him today, to let him know that this might be the case because I'm not sure if he knows this yet. We were interrupted before I got the chance. He must suspect to some degree, but he has been away from the home office for a long time, and the whispers are growing louder. I wonder if I am out of place to warn him of this concern. I wonder even further if I even should. It will not change the fact that he might be a marked man, but rather, it will only put more weight on his already overburdened shoulders.

Monday, February 8, 2010


And I'm getting ready to put on a show. Because I know that there is nothing magical about my being here, no matter how much they want to believe it. No matter how much I want to believe it. The work was completed weeks ago. We saw some of the fruits of our labors last week, but my being here changes nothing, technically. All I can do now is inspire confidence, restore some sense of order, and put smiles on faces again. Today, I am not wearing an engineering hat. I feel like I am wearing the hat of a snakeoil salesman. But I prefer to think of it as the hat of your favorite uncle, who's been there, done that, and completely understands everything that's going on.

I'm going to need a pack of jokes and my wits about me today.

Isabella: You will die. It will be awful.

William: Every man dies, not every man really lives.

Isabella: Drink this. It will dull your pain.

William: No. It will numb my wits, and I must have them all. For if I'm senseless or if I wail, then Longshanks will have broken me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Relational Idolatry - Somewhere in the beginning

The truth is, there really isn't much for me to teach here. Relational idolatry is a pretty simple concept. It is the idea that we can find completion and wholeness in another person. There. That's really it. So for the rest of the night, I'm just going to tell personal stories and lots of jokes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Relational Idolatry - Introduction/Segue from Narcissism

Last week, I talked about narcissism and how that arises as a response to being hurt significantly. We talked about how we come to a deep dissatisfaction with ourselves and see ourselves as flawed. That we don't like who we are, and are terrified that anyone would ever come to know us. We are so filled with shame and discontent that we choose to create a false image of who we want to be. And we show that image to others. We want so hard to believe that we are this false image, (and in wanting others to believe it too), that we become enslaved to this image. We maintain this image with an inordinate amount of energy, strength, and dedication. It becomes an idol in our lives.

To an extent, we all do this. To varying degrees, each of us have invested in an image we want to present to others. But this is not the only response we take when we are faced with self-resentment and rejection. There is a flip side of this coin.

When we are unable to attain a sense of wholeness on our own; when we realize that maintaining this false image is too much to bear, we begin to look outwards for a savior. Even when we've been hurt by outside people before and afraid to trust again, we hang on to a hope that maybe there is someone out there whom we can believe in. Maybe there is someone out there who is Mr. Right or Miss Right for us. It doesn't matter if we're Christian or non-Christian, this is a sin we commonly share. We look to the other to fill our needs, to strengthen us where we lack, and to give us a sense of wholeness that we could not, and can not attain for ourselves.

For the sake of progress

I work better on an empty stomach. Dinner will have to wait.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Preparing for another bout of Déjà vu

I have been wrestling with restless sleep for over a week. I sleep for hours, waking up ever so often, coasting along the edge of consciousness. But what sets this apart are the dreams. The powerful, vivid dreams.

It has been a long, long time since I have had dreams these vivid and memorable. I had been suspecting that the lack of memorable dreams were either a result of a loss of imagination or because I have been so tired in my sleep. But I have nothing to indicate that either of these two things have changed. Yet, I dream. And these dreams are real. I am immersed in them. I wake up exhausted with the living I am doing in these dreams. The choices I have to wrestle with. The activity that is going on. But the biggest question I have been asking myself, are these dreams the next set of dreams I will reexperience again in real life.

It's happened many times before.

I have been dreaming of people I never met and places I have never been to. I don't think it is typical for people to dream things that make sense. But here I am, visiting the same place in my dreams several nights in a row and I have a literal map in my head of how to go from one location to another. I know locations of restaurants, stores, and college campuses. All places I have never been before. All places I am wondering if I will visit some day.

Many years ago, I dreamed a vivid dream of having lunch with an older woman I had never met in a place I had never been to. Two years ago, I relived that dream with my pastor/mentor at a little local restaurant that recently went out of business.

The weirdness of it all has long gone. I have come to accept that these are things that happen. Perhaps it's a gift. Maybe a curse (I kinda enjoyed having restful sleep). I do not know. All I want to know now is, what am I supposed to do with this foreknowledge?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Paradise Falls

"I wonder what my Paradise Falls in my life will be"

A singular quote from a text message conversation I had with my best friend tonight. Up is a great movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is also an emotionally powerful movie, which plays off a reality most people tend to ignore; our dreams may never come true.

For the past few years, I have spoken at length to anyone who would listen about our cultural tie to the American Dream and how we must inevitably face its death. I think I have spoken so much on the topic that it has become old hat for me. It doesn't tickle my fancy as much as it used to. But the conversation tonight lit a spark, and I wanted to capture it before it was lost.

We all have our own American Dream. That's what is so tantalizing about it. It's not just that we all have one, and it is personal and personalized to us, but because we have the wealth and opportunity to believe it could all happen. The American Dream has never seemed more real. It has never been more within our reach. And whatever our dream is, we have become slaves to it and the hope that it may one day come true.

We have been given a moral directive to pursue these dreams. We should pursue our dreams, otherwise we let ourselves down. We become "untrue" to ourselves. We must seize the moment! We cannot waste a minute of our lives. We must live to the fullest. It is the lie of the devil to convince us that heaven can be attained on earth so we will not need or want a Heavenly Father. Anything He can offer us then pales in comparison to the great dream we have built for ourselves here. At times, it can be astonishing, and downright embarrassing, how easily we are fooled and led astray from what is good to what we hope to be.

But the dream eventually fails us. The illusion will eventually become exposed. Whether it is now or 50 years from now determines the course of our life. Will we continue to be a slave to our dream? Or will we give it up willingly and pursue what we are being led to? Shall we continue to kick against the goads?

This is not my intended post on "Home," but I find that this topic leads into it well. It may also be that I am too ambitious in the territory I want to cover with that post. I may have to break it up into pieces.

What will your Paradise Falls be? You may already be chasing it.