I forgot (again)!

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Batteries Not Included
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Memory. It’s a funny thing. I remember (haha!) when I was young, I was very good at remembering things. I still have very vivid memories of my life in Taiwan, and my early years here in America. Memories that remain intact, down to the very minute details of the scene I remember. I remember.

But lately, I’ve been forgetting a lot. In one of Evan’s classes, the teacher was going over the process of doing work, and following the different branches of the decision tree. One of the results is that as you’re doing work, your mind starts to think about something else, and that something else is important. So what are you supposed to do? Write down that other thing (because it’s important), go back to your work, and come back to that something else later when you are done with your work.

But see, I never wrote things down, because I never forgot. Until recently. I would think of something important I should jot down on my to-do list, but I can’t do that at the moment because my to-do list is on my phone and I’m driving and I never use my phone when I drive, so I tell myself first thing I need to do when I stop the car is write down the important thing, and as I drive I start to think of the to-do list and the things that are on there and even before I get to the next traffic light, I’ve forgotten the thing I remembered that I needed to write down.

Sometimes at dinner, the kids will ask for milk, and by the time I get to the fridge (this makes my house sound so big, but it isn’t), I’ve already forgotten why I went there.

I don’t know when I became so forgetful. I wonder if it’s because nowadays, with all the gadgets and technology helping us to remember things, we don’t have to remember as much on our own and so our brains start to atrophy. Goodness’ sake, I used to remember a LOT of phone numbers! And license plate numbers! Granted, I know a lot more people now than I did in junior high and high school, but I don’t remember most people’s phone numbers because I don’t have to. You know, back in the day, if I had lost my cellphone (but we didn’t have cellphones back then), I wouldn’t have to create a “Lost My Phone” Facebook event (we didn’t have Facebook back then either) to get everyone’s phone numbers – it was all stored in my head. Today, I can count on two hands the number of phone numbers I have committed to memory.

As if my forgetfulness wasn’t enough.. my body is quickly deteriorating. I have a lot more aches and pains than I used to. And that’s just from getting out of bed in the morning.

Is this what getting old feels like?

A Tale of Two Guitars

Posted: March 6, 2013 in Batteries Not Included
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What would you do….

…if you owned a guitar that was semi-rare, in production for only one year, and #11 of only 28 that were ever made?

…and then you found that #12 was recently posted for sale on Craigslist?

…and that #12 resides just an hour away, in Santa Cruz?

Of course you would say, “That’s nice, dear, but I have a sermon to prepare for this Sunday.”

Right?

Right.

#waitingforbelatedvalentinesdaygift

I was asked to document my sensory experiences of the retreat this past weekend. I didn’t realize I had so many words in me. Might as well make it into a blog post? Here goes:

I hate falling asleep at the wheel. Especially when I have important cargo, like the retreat speaker and his wife, the sound system, and my son. I tried to get as much rest as possible the night before, but when you’re driving down the monotonous 101 Freeway, it’s easy to get droopy-eyed. The bumps on the lane dividers help jolt me awake, though, so that’s good.

We drive by Gilroy, and I’ve always loved driving through Gilroy – we often roll down the windows and let in the magnificent scent of garlic, and my son and I inhale like our lives depended on it. But this time there is no garlic scent. Somewhat disappointing.

Once we pull off the 101 Freeway, I remember driving through some green hills littered with cows and other such animals grazing. At one point, I remember driving down a sloped hill at which point the road opened up to farm land as far as the eye can see. Rows upon rows of neatly lined dirt piles, no doubt machine-hewn, most likely already seeded. I especially like driving by plots of farm land with neatly lined trees – depending on the angle you look at the plot of land, you see different row configurations. It’s hard to describe but it speaks to the math geek inside me.

Pulling into the Pajaro Dunes resort is an experience – it is a gated community, so you really get a sense of separation from the outside world. Once inside, as you drive along the main road, you start to catch a glimpse of the … interesting assortment of architecture in the houses. There are castles, houses that look like dogs, houses that look like they are sliding off the cliff, houses with spiral staircases that seem to go nowhere.. It’s like the owners hired architectural madmen and allowed them to build their dream projects. There are lots of odd angles and shapes. Again, it tugs at the math geek within my heart.

I like going down to the beach – beach access is provided by wooden walkways that take you up to the top of the bluff and leads to a wooden stairway going down to the beach. That moment when you come to the top of the bluff and see the whole beach laid out before you for the first time – quite a glorious sight. Wide open space far as the eye can see. Sand that’s been repetitively smoothed over by the waves’ gentle, but sometimes rough caresses.

On the beach, we come across an interesting phenomenon – dead crab shells. Literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, crab shells littered the beach. Here and there a crab body with legs, but mostly shells. It looks like someone had a crab fest out here. They’re mostly small, like toddler crabs, with an occasional daddy or mommy crab shell. The small shells are very fragile, some of them breaking at the gentlest touch. I go around stepping on the shells that I see. Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s very satisfying. I feel powerful.

At some point in the afternoon, a group of equestrian frolickers came galloping down the beach on their horses. Against the setting sun, the shadow of the horse and rider left a majestic impression. Too bad my camera phone was too slow to capture any good shots. One of the riders really liked galloping at top speed through the shallow waves. I still remember the clop/splash sound of each hoof hitting the water and sand at brisk pace. He looked like he was having a lot of fun. The rider, too.

The house we stayed at had a huge gnarly mangled tree in the back (yard?). The bark was peeling off on several limbs, leaving strips of bark hanging down, almost like a willow tree, but not. The branches seem to snake out from the stump and come toward you, as if approaching for a hug. But I keep my distance. Face to face with a little space, some have said. Good advice.

The third floor of the house was a small loft, with windows providing a 360 degree view of the dunes. I spent a few minutes up there one night, after everyone had already left. The windows were open, and I could hear the distant roar of the waves – funny how waves always seem to sound louder at night, no? The view at night was quite different than day; I liked it a lot more. The moonlight shimmered and glistened on the waves, constantly moving, yet staying in place. The houses were for the most part vacant, making the dunes look rather lonely and deserted. A few scattered lights could be seen here or there. I wonder what it would be like to live out here year round. I really like this room up here. I could sit here all night staring out into the dark, the ocean roar my soundtrack for the night. I wonder how many other people have been up here. I had taken a quick nap here in the afternoon, hot sun beating down on my face. I woke up slightly sweaty. I really would have liked to spend more time up in this room. Upper Upper Room.

We lit a bonfire on the beach. It was already underway when I arrived. Some of the high school kids threw in crab remains they found on the beach. It smelled good, salty. Made me think of Korean BBQ. The remains quickly charred. Other students were throwing in seaweed, which would curl and squirm as it burned. It looked like Snakes On The Pain. Wait, was that a movie? We fed the fire some large wood planks, and I think at one point it reached a height of over 10 feet (the flames, not the planks). The intense flame made it difficult to roast marshmallows. Most of the humans present were not able to come within 3 feet of the fire. Some seemed to bow and worship the flames. But I know their hearts and that there was no idolatry in the action. I think they had just fallen down.

That night, a fog rolled in over the beach and into the housing area. The fog wasn’t thick, but it made it hard to see, especially since there isn’t much street lighting.

The last day. We had to vacate the conference rooms. It took about two hours to fully set up the chairs and sound system on the first day. On the last day, with everyone’s help, we had the hall vacated in about half an hour. I stood in the empty hall, remembering all that had gone on in the last 48 hours. It’s eerily quiet.

And that’s about all I remember.

This past week while we were up at Tahoe, my lovely athletic wife decided to try her hand at learning to snowboard (she is an almost-expert skier). Unfortunately for us, she took a tumble on the second day and suffered a concussion. One of the symptoms of concussion is memory loss, and I witnessed for the first time someone’s memory being wiped out (she lost about 36 hours worth of short term memory). And it got me thinking…. what if she had lost all her memory? What if she forgot who I was? My very existence to her, it could have all disappeared in the blink of an eye (or the knock of a head). How tenuous relationships really are! Everything that I am to her depends on the storage of electrons in her brain, and given enough of a shake, it could all be shaken out. (When I first realized that she had really lost her memories of the last few hours, one of the first things I did was to remind her that I had done the dishes that morning. Goodness, what a moron.)

I remember a movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where (if I remember correctly – ha!) the main character wanted to erase all memories he had of his ex-girlfriend. I recall that the procedure went smoothly, until his mind started to fall apart because it couldn’t account for the missing memories. Would Alice’s mind fight back for the memories lost, if it were more than 36 hours worth? What about 3.6 years’ worth? Or 3.6 decades? I’ve read about loved ones fighting the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Many people suffer – those who carry the disease are robbed of their memories, and the loved ones around them are robbed of their relationships.

A line from a song I wrote a long time ago: Do you remember? Can you remember? Do you even want to remember? How could you forget?

Enjoy your memories, while you still have them. Cherish the people around you, while you still remember who they are.

What a year!

Posted: December 26, 2012 in Batteries Not Included

2012 has to be, by far, one of the most exciting years of my life. It all started with a chest stab wound at the end of 2011 – talk about ending the year with a bang! but it was more like a stab! than a bang! – and then before we knew it, we almost lost my brother-in-law and senior pastor to septic shock. Then we watched a miracle unfolding before our very eyes as his body became emaciated through the surgeries and treatments and then very quickly his health started to recover, and against all odds, a few weeks before Christmas, he was declared (many weeks ahead of schedule) healed and no longer needing any more treatment.

For the 2012 Sze clan Christmas gathering, the O’Hoyts showcased their brand new remodeled kitchen, but even better than that, EVERYONE in the clan was there. I was reflecting that it could have been a much more somber Christmas gathering, except by God’s grace and mercy my brother-in-law not only was alive and present, but was in good health all around. Speaking of present, there were presents, presents, and MORE presents. I think most of the cousins were in shock by how many presents they got. The aunts and uncles and grandparents seemed to go all out with the gifting this year. But then again, we had ample reason to celebrate. And celebrate we did! One of the cousins left behind his/her Meiji chocolate pandas, and I am the happy beneficiary (I took it when no one was looking).

Mixed in there in November, my brother got married (and we celebrated my birthday multiple times during the rehearsal dinner – Happy Birthday played again and again over the speakers in the restaurant), and I was able to spend Christmas Eve with my brother and his wife and my aunt, and she made all the foods I liked to eat as a kid. My dad and aunt both feel some sort of relief now that both my brother and I are married. Married life isn’t easy (most issues stem from my selfishness), but I believe God is able to overcome our own shortcomings (my selfishness) and uphold us through the long haul.

In early December, I thought I felt another lump, same kind of lump that 5 years ago led to a diagnosis of a malignant tumor and the removal of half my man-ness. Except this year, I found out after a scan that the lump was just a cyst. So I asked the doctor about it, because the lump felt exactly like the first lump I felt back in 2007 . Turns out that first lump wasn’t a cancerous lump at all – it was just a cyst, but when they did the ultrasound back in 2007, they found a tiny little tumor next to the cyst. So if it hadn’t been for the cyst, by the time the tumor was big enough to be found and felt, it probably would’ve spread and my treatment (surgery only) wouldn’t have been so easy. And to think, these last 5 years, I had no idea how easy I had it. I wish I’d known – not that I wasn’t thankful to God, but I wish I could’ve been thankful to God for how good He REALLY was to me.

Oh and Alice’s brother gave us a car for Christmas.

What a year!

Release

Posted: August 12, 2012 in Batteries Not Included

In less than 12 hours, I had my answers. These are excerpts from the songs we sang in worship today, and the thoughts that ran through my head:

“I sing for joy at the work of Your hands.” Oh, but do you really? Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were complaining about not wanting to deal with the cross anymore?

“Lord, I’ve come to know the weaknesses I see in me will be stripped away by the power of Your love.” Ok, if that’s not a direct address to my whining yesterday, I don’t know what is.

“You are my desire, no one else will do.” This line was hard to sing this morning. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. I felt like I was lying. On a conviction scale of 1 to 10, this was maybe a 12 or 13.

Not the answers I was looking for, but I guess I should have known they were coming. And I’m glad they did. I’m glad God felt I was mature enough where He didn’t have to coddle me anymore.

Release Me

Posted: August 11, 2012 in Batteries Not Included

I was sitting there in the conference pre-study with Brother Sze when he shared something that I think I had already known, but put in a way that opened my eyes and made something click. He said that when we look at the cross, we think of pain and suffering and more pain and more suffering. It’s a bitter thing to bear. But when Jesus looked to the cross, He didn’t see pain and suffering – He saw release. Release from confinement in a human body, release from the hunger and weariness that He went through as a man, release from being confined to being in one time and one place. To Jesus, the cross was glorious – it was the key to His returning to His former state.

And it made me think of death in an entirely new way. See, there’s this song that goes something like this: All I once held dear, built my life upon, all the world reveres and wars to own, all I once count gain, I have counted loss. I’ve sang this some maybe a zillion times. No, maybe 20 times. 30, tops. And each time I sang it, I thought I meant it. But do I really? Do I really want to give up everything that I once held dear? Everything that I’ve built my life upon? Everything that defines me, to the very core?

And the simple answer is no. I don’t want to give it up. Do you know what it feels like to be told that the very person you are is not the person God wants you to be? To be told that at the very core of your being, of your existence, is something defiled, something dirty? It’s the very thing that Paul talks about in Romans 7:15. But – but – but what if I don’t hate the evil things that I do? What if what I hate is being judged?

I thirst. I hunger. I desire. And these are base things. My life is one full of weakness. I wish I could be released from this life of weakness, so that I can stop feeling guilty about not hating the things I should hate. I’m tired of not being good enough. I’m tired of having to fight the core of my being, or worse yet, tired of not fighting. I’m tired of realizing that I’m not an overcomer.

My life is one full of weaknesses. I know what the cross is, but I have trouble seeing the glory beyond it. I don’t like realizing that I’m not the man I wish I was. I sometimes wish…..  I seek release. Release from not being good enough. But I suppose that decision is not mine to make. I suppose I should look at the cross, and face it, and bear it, and seek the glory that lies beyond (not that I’d have a whole lot of glory to look forward to, at the rate I’m going, what with all this whining and complaining).