Monday morning reality check

Monday morning … and we’re back in California. I never thought I’d be sad to be back in CA, but I kind of am. I knew it was going to be hard readjusting after a week of relaxation, reacquaintance and reconnection. I miss Tim and Tiff, and being able to talk honestly with them and pray with them and reminisce about old times—sometimes, I wonder if I’ll ever live near them again. I miss the London crew and being able to talk about football with people who live football and how Henry’s transfer to Barcelona really, really sucks. I miss hanging out with new friends like Tiff’s family and the Florida girls. I miss the blueness of the skies, unblemished by smog—okay, here I’m being a little bit pernickety, since California skies are still pretty blue (bluer than London ones, anyway!).

But in some ways, I’m glad to be back. Because this is home now; this is where God has me for this season; this is where my stuff is. Because here, I have my own bed and my own room (i.e. I don’t have to share a room with snorers or a bed with roll-overers ☺). Because this is where my life is, with all of its joys and sorrows, struggles and heartaches: this last week in Colorado was a breather, a time to catch my breath and catch up with God, when the routines of the previous months and the worries of life were suspended, at least for a little while; but this—California—is where I’m growing up. Because here, I have friends with whom I can talk about baseball until the cows come home, and they know their stuff.

I needed last week. I needed to be able to share my deepest struggles with my best friends and to be able to pray with them for their marriage and other things. I needed to be able to take time out to just have fun (even though sleep—and consequently, rest—was at a premium). I needed to be able to make new friends who enjoyed my company and found me funny—yes, people here do that too, but it was nice to know that I haven’t lost it. ☺ I needed to be able to play music and be encouraged by people’s response to it—I’d been struggling with whether or not I still was meant to tread the path of music, and playing at the wedding, and people’s comments afterwards, instilled in me once again the belief that I can sing. I needed to listen to Lifehouse’s new album—hearing the band that really got me started in writing songs inspired me to pick up my pen and try my hand at creative musical expression once more. All in all, I needed last week to redefine my purpose and my direction, to reinvigorate my spirit, to renew my joy in life and to hone my calling.

I’m back in California, and I know I’m in the right place for now. I know that I’m here to prepare for pastoral ministry. I don’t know whether the pastoral ministry will follow immediately on the heels of my time at Fuller, or will crop up later in life, but I know, without a doubt, that I will be involved in church ministry at some point. I also know that I will not be called to one thing for the rest of my life. I know that music will play a role in my future, whether in the church or outside of the church. And wherever I am, whatever I’m doing—since I believe that who I am is greater than what I’m doing—I know that God will use me as long as I let him. It’s his story, after all.

Two weeks ago, almost to the day, I wrote this:

God … I don’t know where I’m going. But I do trust that I’m following you. I’m not 100% sure that my relationship with you is as good as it could be, but I know that it’s better than it has been this year. “Pain is part of learning who you are,” sing Lifehouse; and it is. I’m learning that this year: that as I go through the toughest, most painful, and (oxymoronically) best year of my life so far, I’m figuring out who I am, who you are calling me to be, and what you are calling me to.

I have faith that you will prove faithful. Help me to remain grounded in you.

He is proving faithful. He is leading me. He is growing me, molding me, forming me, shaping me, guiding me. He is strengthening me and encouraging me. He is my Rock, my Salvation, my Savior and my God. I am found in him alone, and my foundations are laid on him. I will not be shaken; (I will not be stirred—heheh). I will live with integrity, seeking to make the most of what God has given me in the here and now. And listening.

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My Best Friends’ Wedding

Last Friday, June 22, in Littleton, CO, my best friends Tim and Tiffany got married. It was an emotional occasion, not least because I hadn’t seen either of them since I left London in August. Also, I’ve been privileged to be able to call both of them my best friend, and so it felt simultaneously like a double loss and a double blessing: a loss of friendship because that marriage takes precedence over other relationships, but a blessing to see two of my favorite people in the world committing their lives to each other. It was an awesome occasion to be a part of, and I’m honored to have been asked to serve as a best man (Tim had three). Here are some pics:

Tim and I


With the lovely couple


Tim and his groomsmen


Tiff and her bridesmaids


For more pics, you can visit my Facebook albums here and here.

Anyhow, this trip was awesome because, among other things, I saw old friends: (Tim and Tiff, of course), James T, Oli, Jamie, Pete, Aki, Ken, Neena, Julie, Tiff’s siblings; and I also met new friends: James Mc, Faith, Tiff, Mel, Bri.

Julie


Mel, Faith, Julie & Tiff


We also got to go white-water rafting at Clear Creek, which was bunches of fun. It was the afternoon before the wedding (the day of the rehearsal), and all 30+ of us who went piled into Subway, across the street from our hotel, for dinner. I took this picture after I’d almost finished eating … some people hadn’t ordered yet.

More thoughts to come in the next few days (when I’ve readjusted to California life and caught up on sleep).

Greetings from Colorado

Hey y’all, I’m writing this blog from my hotel room in Aurora, CO. I’m halfway through my 8-day trip for Tim and Tiff’s wedding, which takes place on Friday. The temperature’s been consistently in the high 80s/low 90s and the weather’s been consistently sunny. Anyhow, in the few days I’ve been here, I’ve:

• visited Scum of the Earth church in downtown Denver with Tiff;

• gone to see a Rockies/Devil Rays game at Coors Field with four of the six Barker kids;


• walked around downtown Denver—well, up and down 16th Street;

• chilled out to a couple of rented movies over the weekend;

• driven around lots, running errands—technically, this should be “been driven around lots by Tiff, while she has errands to run”, but whatever.

2007 has indeed been the toughest year of my life so far, as I sensed God saying at the end of last year. It’s also been, somehow simultaneously, the best year of my life so far. It’s been very different, very good; but very tough.

But I think a turnaround is in the works. Something about being here, out of the routine grind of Pasadena life, without work or class responsibilities, being with an old friend, just being able to enjoy life, being able to pray with Tiff, going to church, helping out at Sunday School, going to church again; something in me is ready for a return to full relationship with my God and King.

Being at Scum was invigorating—it was the kind of church I think I would want to be a part of: church that is honest, where the music is not over-produced but still polished, where the sermons are coming together to address real life, not simply talking in abstracts. It made me realize how much I really did miss regular communion with a community of faith—I’m still visiting churches in CA and will continue to do so until some time towards the end of the summer—just as spending time with Tiff and Tim made me realize how much I missed the comfort and companionship of old friendships.

I know that when I go back to California, things won’t be the same: my friends from London will have gone back to their lives in London and I’ll go back to work and class. But this downtime (well, as much as pre-wedding time can be downtime) feels like a kickstart. A much-needed kickstart.

Right … back to editing this best man speech of mine.

Summer’s here!

This is how I know that I have time: I’m blogging more, journaling more, and my email inbox is empty (coz I’ve replied to everyone). Which is the state I now find myself in. Glorious.

It’s kind of strange to think that I’ve been in California now for coming up to 10 months. It’s gone by like nothing else. Much has changed in the last year. Much has improved; some has regressed; very little has stayed the same. God has remained faithful.

A year ago, I still thought I was staying in London to complete an MA in Human Rights at UCL. I had no idea the things that God had in store. I had no idea that I would finally see the realization of my dream to live in the States (and in SoCal at that!). I’d never gone on a date with anyone I wasn’t already going out (it’s complicated, but I’ll explain, if you ask); I’d never owned a car, or lived by myself; and I hadn’t lived close to anyone in my immediate family pretty much since I left Hong Kong in ’98 (notwithstanding the six months Gabe was in London during my final year at UCL).

I have to admit, there were still a bunch of things to adjust to; among other things: the currency (I no longer convert to GBP to see whether something’s a good deal, coz inevitably, it’ll be cheaper here than in London); the average speech volume (yes, Americans are louder on average—Daren attributes that to more space per person, so we have to speak louder … it’s as plausible as any other explanation, and more polite, to boot); the approach to spirituality and Christianity (both in a theological academy like Fuller, where there’s a gamut denominations and backgrounds, and in US culture in general); the overwhelming quantity of cars, and by implication, greenhouse gas emissions (I drove a friend to the airport at 6am one day, and it was already rush hour); and the weather, which was a happy change, and which has enabled me to thrive in my fair-weather-footballing skills and get rid of my London tan (i.e. paleness).


Weddings Next Friday, I’m off to Colorado for Tim and Tiff’s wedding. It’ll be awesome.

A friend of mine somewhat jokingly pleaded for the glut of weddings to stop … I know the feeling. It’s that time of life where almost everyone I know is getting married, or already married, or in a serious relationship.

The next season … babies.

Music news Speaking of babies, the lovely Natasha Bedingfield’s new single is called “I Wanna Have Your Babies”. It’s a bunch of fun, as well as some pretty insightful social commentary (as some of her other singles have been.)

Finally … I got to be part of the audience for the taping of Lifehouse’s Nissan Yahoo! Live Set. It was a bucketload of awesomeness, as they played their two biggest hits thus far (“Hanging by a Moment” and “You and Me”), five new songs (including the awesome “Broken”, which will, I hope, come out as a single eventually), and one redux (the song “Storm” has its roots in Jason’s days at the Malibu Vineyard, and appears on the album Diff’s Lucky Day, released before Lifehouse were signed/big).

Being slightly behind the band, I got to see what they see, and I have to tell you, it made me miss being in Lifesize, playing gigs, writing songs, making music, having fun, having people singing your songs. I was slightly distracted by a girl in the front row … but to be fair, I couldn’t really see the faces of the band. Yes, that’s my excuse.

Anyway, Lifesize reunion tour, anyone?

Another year gone

Well … I’ve finished my first academic year at Fuller; I handed in my take-home exam for Ethics (on homosexuality) half an hour ago. This means that (theoretically) I’ll have more time to blog. I’ll try …

Meanwhile, what’s happened in the two weeks since I last blogged …

Murphy’s Law

Also known as Sod’s Law, this is defined thus: “a humorous axiom stating that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” An example of this is my blog about not getting seriously injured being followed a few days by a pulled hamstring at soccer. So I’ll be out for a couple more weeks—fortunately, being in California, I don’t have to worry about missing the good weather. ☺

Intramural softball
Pulling my hamstring two Saturdays ago was not particularly good timing, since the intramural softball championship was the following Friday. But I could walk by the time Friday rolled around, so I wrapped my thigh up (as well as my wrists, which were also sore), and toughed it out. Unfortunately, I play softball Ichiro-style, legging out infield hits and the like. Hobbled by a strained hamstring, I could only jog, and so didn’t get on base as often as I would’ve liked.

Anyway, the LA Champs of Los Angeles (my softball team) put up a good fight, but came in second after scoring a season-low two runs and having an uncharacteristic defensive meltdown in the final inning in the championship game. Still, there’s next year …
More tomorrow.