Home.

I wish I could work from home in New Jersey. A client would call, telling me they had a batch of footage to transfer over. In two hours, I’d be editing a video, creating a digital explosion, or whatever they needed done, and sending it back to them. Boom. A thousand dollars. Then I’d ask my mom if she needed help cooking dinner.

It’d be nice to live like that. A guy can dream.

After three years, I’m finally getting used to Los Angeles. I like it there. It’s a good place to work. I have a group of friends who I consider family, people I can trust to have my back. But every time I come to the East Coast, I remember that I miss it so damn much.

Many things have changed. For instance, I don’t rock a Chinese monk haircut with a pathetic prepubescent mustache. Glad that’s changed. Most of my peers are working adults, including my best friends. All but one of my siblings have moved out of the house. I barely see my favorite couple in the world, Matt and Rebecca, after they had kids. Chinatown is becoming gentrified.

Yet some things stay the same. Our family gatherings are still insane. My home churches are still thriving. And you can’t beat fancy dinners in Chinatown with Grandma.

When I’m asked where I consider home, I say without a doubt, the east coast. Easy peasy. It’s where I grew up. It’s where ninety-five percent of my family reside. So why do I live in Los Angeles?

Because I believe I was designed for a purpose. I don’t mean to sound over-confident, like I have everything together, because I don’t. But I do believe these things. My visits back home always remind me of who I am.

The people who believed in me are still here.

Everyone I grew up loving is still here.

My family is still here.

My God is still here.

And He’s with me in California too. He’s sent me there with a purpose. Again, I don’t mean to sound over-confident. There’s so many questions I still have, so many doubts I need to fight. But it’s all part of the journey, and I’m not afraid of the journey anymore.

See you later, East Coast. I’ve got some work to do.

Josh out.

 

Church Actually Helps

I used to love church.

I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to go to church every Sunday. If that sounds strange, maybe it is. I know a lot of people who hated church. People whose parents would drag them by their feet into service. And I understand. Not all churches are the same. Some are toxic environments disguised as sanctuaries. It truly sucks.

My first church was CEMC, Chinese Evangel Mission Church. For the first seventeen years of my life I called it home, and still do. My parents met there when they were teenagers, new to the faith. The generation before me created a space where I felt loved and accepted, a safe place for me to grow spiritually as a child. I made my first movies here. I made my childhood friends here. Most of all, I learned who God was and what He meant to everyone around me.

My second church was LCC, Life Covenant Church. As I grew up, so did my faith, and Life was the perfect catalyst. Here I encountered God’s tangible presence for the first time. I could list all the times I knelt on the floor sobbing, overcome by the Holy Spirit. If that sounds weird, it probably was. Yeah, we were a little charismatic. Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure to be studied. He was someone real and alive, and I discovered that being a young adult at Life.

Then I moved to California.

I visited several churches and liked a lot of them. They had good music. Engaging speakers. Friendly people. I tried serving at one of the churches for a few months.

Remember how I mentioned kids whose parents drag them by their feet into service? That was me in Los Angeles, except my parents weren’t here. My spiritual ghost would drag me to church, telling me I needed to go because church was important. But my heart wasn’t there. One Sunday, I drove half an hour to church, slept for the entire service, then drove straight home. It was getting ridiculous.

Was it the church’s fault for not being “right” for me? Well, I’m supposed to serve the church, not vice versa. Should it matter that I didn’t feel comfortable in the community?

I called my mom the other day. She asked if I was going to church. I told her no. I sometimes played a Francis Chan sermon on the TV and I went to bible studies on Thursdays, but that was it. I wanted something like my home church family, but was too lazy to invest in one. During our conversation, my mom pointed out that all the churches I had been to were megachurches, ranging from five hundred to thousands of people. Yet all my life I had never been part of a community larger than a hundred or two.

It suddenly hit me. I had a friend in Torrance who is a worship pastor. Why don’t I just attend his church?

I didn’t tell him I was coming. When worship started and he saw me in the crowd, he smiled. Mind you, there wasn’t more than a fifty people in the service. We started off with a praise movement song for the kids. Wow. I hadn’t done hand motions to a kid’s song in a while. It felt weirdly…freeing.

The pastor was great. I noticed how much he talked about supporting missionaries. It impressed me, considering the church wasn’t huge, how dedicated they were to missions. Like CEMC.

As we went to the closing worship songs, I felt an invisible glue drip over me, stiffening my movements. I realized I hadn’t been in a worship service in a while; at least, one where I felt comfortable in. One that was a simple band playing songs to God, not some EDM concert that felt designed to please the congregation instead of their Creator.

I often get this picture in my head whenever I’m in worship. I imagine the world around me dissolving into millions of tiny cards, flipping over, transforming my reality into a blank, white void. In that moment, all distractions fade away. I see Jesus, standing before me. Nothing exists except Him and me. And I worship.

My body loosened up. I raised my hands and sang.

I still love church. It helps my life, it really does. Something mystical happens there, not because a song had the right lyrics, or the pastor said something that related to my life. But it’s because I encounter the presence of God there.

And that changes everything.

Vegas, Baby

Welp, didn’t blog for two days. The streak is losing power.

Words spoken before my first trip to Vegas:

“Are you going to hit the strip club?”

“I hope you black out so hard you don’t remember anything.”

I don’t gamble. I don’t go to strip clubs. I DO like to eat at buffets, that part was great.

Jenine’s uncle was getting married to his girlfriend of quite a few years. The ceremony took place in a courtyard outside Caesar’s Palace. Not a huge wedding, just some family, friends, and his niece’s freeloading boyfriend.

The priest came up and did his thing. As the two lovebirds recited their vows, their teenage daughter shed a tear. Aw. Props to her for standing in the sweltering heat throughout the entire ceremony. People had warned me how hot Vegas was. I took off my jacket.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Applause and cheers erupted in the courtyard. The newlyweds walked down the aisle with concerned looks on their faces. Wait. Something was wrong. Jenine’s cousin reached over and caught their seventy-something-year-old grandpa, who had just passed out under the direct sunlight.

They took off his jacket, setting up a fan to give him some air. The medic arrived, checking his temperature as Lolo regained consciousness.

“He needs electrolytes. Gatorade or something.”

Jenine’s dad rushed out of the courtyard. I followed him, in case he needed assistance. Why not, right? We found a convenience store around the corner, where he purchased an orange Gatorade. He pulled out his wallet, then passed me the drink before paying.

“Can you run this back?”

Heck yeah, I can.

Boom. I sped off like Woody Woodpecker, back in twenty seconds flat. As I approached Jenine’s grandpa, time slowed as I passed him the bottle. Like an Olympic runner passing the baton. For a brief moment, our eyes made contact. I could feel one word reverberate through my soul. Appppprooooooovaaaaal. 

Jenine’s dad did me a solid, letting me look good in front of the entire Lim clan. Make no mistake, I was extremely grateful. It can be hard to find moments to connect with your girlfriend’s family when you only see them once in a blue moon.

Grandpa Lim turned out fine. He was back at full health, enjoying the Vegas-style buffet with the rest of us. The bride and groom were frazzled by the unexpected turn of events, but relieved that nothing major had happened. Besides their holy union before the Lord, of course.

I didn’t go to any strip clubs or drink ’til my eyes bled. I did walk the strip with Jenine and her cousins. Got some dope pizza. It was a good trip.

Josh out.