Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Never Say Never Again!

I guess you can never say never!
My intention when I purchased my Yamaha Vmax was for it to be the last bike I own. I guess that in hindsight that was a crazy idea. Motorcycle owners are notorious for swapping and trying out different bikes. I do love riding a Vmax, but I realize that riding with the people I hang out with, a sport bike is really the right set up for me.

As for the Vmax (Sharky's Machine) I was most attached to two things, the insane amounts of raw power and the fact that it had connections to my daughter Ariel (1989 model and her birth year, teal is the color of our hockey team, the San Jose Sharks). When I chose to swap it out, she was surprisingly unsentimental to those facts since she likes sport bikes more anyway. Oh well!

How I came into getting the bike is where I think that God showed himself. During us having a garage sale, I ended up delivering some patio furniture to a neighbor. Inside their garage was one of my all time favorite bikes: a Kawasaki Ninja 650r. I offered up my compliments: "Nice bike." What I wasn't ready for was his response, "You want it?" He then went in to the details. It was his son's bike and that it was a 2009 with only 2500 miles that was sitting in his garage for two years. His son was unhappy with it because he laid it down rashing the right side, breaking off the right rear view mirror and bending the back break peddle (all cosmetic damage). The price was shockingly low. So low, I could sell the Vmax and get it for about the same amount. I told him I'd work on things and see what happened.
I put an ad for about the amount of the Ninja for my Vmax. I got two calls. The first was very interested but said he'd need a couple of days before he could get back to me. The second rode it that same day and said he'd think about it. Here's where things got weird. He came back the next day and rode it. What shocked me was that the Vmax died while he was riding it! I thought we had a deal and I could get my cool Ninja bike and it looked like things were falling apart. Anyway, he said he'd think some more about it and get back to me. Ugh!
This is where I see the difference that God made. In the past, I would have taken my frustration to anger and then complain to God. Why show me such a cool bike? Why did this stupid thing happen to my Vmax? What's going on here? Instead, I talked to him about my frustration and then, I realized there's peace here. Do I need a 650r? Am I content with my Vmax? Is God trustworthy? The answers were all obvious. I could then just pray that whatever happens happens and I'm good with that. I tested the battery and it was bad so I went out and got a new battery for the Vmax. I was told by the battery salesman that the guy who was looking at the bike actually called as well. That was a sign he was still interested. He did call me to say he was still interested and that he knew that I had replaced the battery. He appreciated that. Anyway, we ended up doing the sale! The next day, with cash in hand, I bought the 650r! God is good!

My mark is still there!

This past weekend I got to take it out on my favorite ride: Foothills Parkway, to Deal's Gap and then on the Cherohala Parkway. This was a group ride with the Knoxville Rockets. It's always nice to be around others who loves sport bike riding. First comments from them were admiration for the new bike and then surprise at what a great deal I got. Riding with the group pushes me to get out of my comfort zone and try to ride more aggressively (not crazy) which pushes me to become a better rider. I really appreciate that.
As for the bike, it's great! Compared to the Vmax it's a lot smoother. The raw power isn't there, but it's so smooth that I was easily hitting the 90 MPH range without much effort. I felt a little awkward going through the Parkway and the Gap mostly in terms of getting used to the bike (it also helped to pump up the tires which I forgot to check!). By the time I got onto the Skyway, I was really starting to get used to the handling. I know I need more seat time to get really comfortable with the bike.
I got the perfect gift for my new grandson!

Anyway, my best gauge for the bike is that I'm getting anxious to ride it a lot. That means I'm loving the ride. The lighter frame, better handling and sleeker look wins over the insane raw power of my good old Vmax. I don't regret having it, but I realize I'm probably a sport biker at heart. God has a way of getting us to figure things out. His direction is always good so getting back to a sport bike is part of His process. So here's to another season riding!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Number Two Is Also Number One

Your first picture!

Mom And Dad Hanging Out.
I hope that we have lots of times hanging out as a family!

To My Second Grandchild,
Hello, this is your grandfather or Jiichan as you will likely call me. I want you to know that it was such a great surprise to hear that God had created you. Your mommy texted me with the great news and since I was on the road, we spent an hour on the phone, talking about the exciting thought of you coming into our lives. You have made me twice the grandpa (as your mommy has said) which is truly an amazing thought.
Your Mommy On Her Wedding Day. Isn't She Beautiful?

Mommy Is Carrying You In This Picture

I want you to know that I love you even though we haven't met just yet. Why do I know this? Because you are part of a very special and beautiful person (your mommy). I loved her so much as a little girl and love even more that she's a grown woman. Also, you were created by God as a special blessing to the whole family. I know that you will bring us all joy and happiness just because you are who you are.

Some Great Times With Your Mom: Motorcycles And Gun Ranges!

I want you to know some things about your Jiichan. Unlike your mommy and daddy, I am not an artist. They have both taught me a lot about art and beauty that God has created but I'm mostly into sports (basketball, hockey, baseball and football), geeky things (Star Wars, Star Trek, engineering) and motorcycles. Your mommy and I love to ride motorcycles together and go to gun ranges. I hope that we can do the same when you're a little older. As Jiichan know that there will be many times when we can spend together doing things that you like and I'll be sure to spoil you with lots of gifts. Most of all I hope to share with you the love that God has shown to all of us. He has the greatest gifts for all of us since He is our Father. Like all good Fathers, He loves us a lot (actually more than your parents or me).
Mom In Her Prom Dress

A Cool Portrait Mom Drew Of Our Dog Mazie

Mom And Jiichan At Homecoming

I wanted to especially write to you since you are my second grandchild. Sometimes it sounds bad that we are second. As your great grandpa used to say about poker, the worst hand is the second best one (I'll explain that some other time, but that has to do with the Nakamura tradition of playing poker at all family gatherings). Anyway, I want you to know something very important: number two is still number one to me. What that means is even though your cousin Maddie was born first and I love her, I love you just as much as I love her. Your mommy is my second child, but I love her just as much as her older sister, Auntie Ariel. They are both my daughters and are very special to me. In the same way, you are very special to me and I love you just as much as Maddie. Because of that, you're still number one (ichiban)!
So look forward to times when we can share stories, eat baked cookies and laugh together. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When The Light Gets Into Your Heart

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Genesis 3:9-10

“We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all.” 
Andrew Clark - The Breakfast Club

"Fear will keep the local systems in line."
Governor Moff Tarkin

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me?
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down
Will you recognize me?
Call my name or walk on by?
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down
Don't You Forget About Me - Simple Minds

If you've read many of my previous posts, I've been going through a pretty transforming time in my life. It's amazing to see that over the course of my life, there's been an underlying process that God, the Extraordinary, is putting me through: dropping my guard and becoming what He wants me to be. Considering all of the hurt and pain I have caused to so many others, that means there's a lot more work that needs to be done. By reflecting and talking to good friends about this, I see it all goes back to the Fall. Since then we've been putting on facades, hiding our true selves from the pain and hurt that is so prevalent in the world today. I carry the curse of Adam. Sadly, I've passed that on to my children and grandchildren. I've deeply hurt my friends and family because of that. Through it all, like everybody else, I try to hide behind a mask of "I'm OK". Really deep down, we're all scared, hurting and trying out best to keep up our appearances. All this does is create distance from others and most importantly from God.

Don't you try to pretend
It's my feeling will win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity, insecurity
Don't You Forget About Me - Simple Minds

My friend Phil even observed how this generation of children who are growing up with social media and smartphones are even more disconnected from others. The depth personal connection is covered up by another layer of protection as one can only publish what one chooses to expose and even become somebody completely different. I do find it ironic that I'm making this observation on a blog - my hope is that those who read it would engage me personally so that this is an open door and not a sound bite.

But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Romans 7:23-25

What's going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I'm still a man in need of a Savior 
In The Light - DC Talk

My experience is that putting up our guard and not allowing anybody (including God) inside creates this duality. We become conflicted inside. We do things that we don't want to do but do them anyway. I think of the lashing out I did on my family and the times I chose to be passive and not stand up to do what was right. A lot of that was because I was too concerned with what others thought. It's a survival technique that leaves you feeling empty and conflicted inside. I spent quite a few years living my life this way. I really grieve that I was like that and still fight those tendencies day to day.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world...
John 3:18

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:8

I wanna be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
In The Light - DC Talk

So what's the solution? Dropping your guard. What I've realized is that my fears are far worse than reality. I see that God has defined me good and yes, righteous. Not because of what I've done or who I am, but because of who Christ is. To me that was the transforming moment. Charles Swindoll has a great book (written in a much lighter tone than me) on this process. I highly recommend this book. I will say that there feels like a huge light that goes on inside when this reality hits you. You are loved, accepted, rescued, saved and blessed. As the layers of walls around your heart are taken down, you will feel a "lightness" inside. I am winning over my fear of others and fear of rejection. To keep with the John Hughes theme, I stopped being the cynical, smart mouthed younger brother in Sixteen Candles. I felt like I had something that I loved that I could share with others - the love Christ has for me. My deepest regret is that it has taken 49 painful years to get just to this point. In my wake are so many broken relationships and pain.

So my hope and prayer for us all is to bring our hurt out into the Light. He can heal whatever pain we have. It's a long process (obviously I'm a slow learner!) but well worth it.

Tell me your troubles and doubts
Giving me everything inside and out
Love's strange so real in the dark
Think of the tender things that we were working on
Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back On 2013: Walking In Jake Holman's Shoes

Warning: Spoilers for the movie "The Sand Pebbles" below!

Reflecting on the previous year (in this case, 2013) is something many people do at this time of year. For me, I thought of the movie "The Sand Pebbles" and Steve McQueen's character Jake Holman.
First, I'd like to give my kudos to Steve McQueen. When I was a kid, he was the coolest guy on the planet. I loved watching him in movies like Bullitt (cop), The Great Escape (soldier), and The Magnificent Seven (gunfighter). From what I heard, he was an avid motorcycle rider which I could really appreciate as well. He also fits into the quintessential American template: tough, cynical, rebellious, resourceful, and gritty. For some reason guys like him, Clint Eastwood, Humphrey Bogart, and yes, Bug Bunny resonate with me.

Watching "The Sand Pebbles" as a kid I enjoyed the action but not fully understanding the social and political issues that it was addressing. I also didn't give much thought to the personal growth of Jake Holman, Steve McQueen's character. He starts his new assignment as chief engineer of the San Pablo which is part of a peacekeeping force in 1926 China (during its revolution). His desire is to only do his job, working on a machine that is predictable and in many ways simple. I can relate to this as a software engineer, there's no emotion and only instructions and algorithms that drive a computer. What's difficult for Holman and for me in 2013 is that the social, political (in his case), emotional and relational complexities will take our simple world and cause us to question, feel, challenge and change our perceptions in life. Jake has to decide how he's going to react to the growing tensions with his shipmates, with the missionaries and with the revolutionaries who are all in conflict. Along the way he ends up shooting his close friend to end the torture he's enduring. He also has to decide where his loyalties truly lie. All of this is happening during a shifting landscape of a country in turmoil. 2013 for me felt a lot like that as I dealt with my own emotional frailties, my own personal failures, health issues (shingles) and relationship problems while activities around me (the birth of my first grandchild, the sickness and passing of my father, the sudden death of my cousin, being fired from a ministry position that I poured my heart into) continued to shift the landscape of my life.

"I was home. What happened? What the hell happened?"
Jake Holman: The Sand Pebbles

Ecclesiastes 1:17-18
Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

One of the most obvious things that both Holman and I experience is pain. In the past few years I've been trying more and more to live by my heart. That can have incredible highs like the awesomeness of holding Maddie, my granddaughter. It also means fully feeling the depth of pain. Holman's quote is his dying words and shows his longing for what is safe and familiar. I kept remembering this quote during some of my dark times this year. Holman is shot and killed in a foreign country basically behind enemy lines - home will never again be his. For me, I had to let go of my childhood home when we sold it after my dad's passing. Sometimes in the shock of pain you will wonder just what is going on; that happened quite often for me this year.
My Childhood Home

We all try to avoid pain. We insulate ourselves from it, deny it and medicate ourselves from it. I'm being taught right now to try find the positives in pain. It's a hard process since pain is sometimes unbearable. I know that pain is one of God's most powerful teachers and in some way His love can shine through it. I admit that I am truly still learning how to apply this. Somewhere inside of the pain we can find some rays of light into the reasons behind what is happening.
I was once told that Jake Holman's name has a double meaning. By the end of the film he has in fact become a much more "whole man". The simple questions and denial of the heart are slowly replaced with new feelings, thoughts and ideals. He is much more in touch with his heart because of the combat, conflict and loss he has experienced. My hope is (as I bid farewell to 2013) is that perhaps my personal growth mirrors his (I'd also like to hope I'm just as cool as he is too!): a Whole Man.

Finally, Happy New Year, 2014 to all! May you find God's path to wholeness each and every day.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Meet Maddie!

More photos of Maddie are here.
This Thanksgiving I had a great reason to be thankful as I finally got to meet my granddaughter, Madeline. I told my friend Kevin that I might start crying when we first meet (he said that I should let it flow if that happened) but I was more in awe. Here's someone who carries something of me with her (the good and the very bad): so quiet and innocent, but with the potential for so much in the future. I know that there are literally thousands of babies in this world at any given moment of time, but for me Maddie is so very special. She is a very mellow baby who likes to be held and sleeps a lot. I have to admit that I was really greedy and wanted to hold her the whole time, but I knew with all of the family there I would have to pick my spots.

I am also thankful that I got to see my daughters and their husbands. God has been revealing to me how He has put into me the joy of one on one time. It used to be "daddy date nights" when the girls grew up. Now looking back, I really cherish those times. I also know that I regret not doing them enough especially during their teens. These are the tough lessons I have to learn and I hope that I will correct over time. Ariel and I shared a late meal and talked about parenthood and our upcoming trip (I'm taking each of my children on a once in a lifetime "one on one" trip). Amanda and I had a light meal (morning sickness is in full effect right now for her), and visited some art galleries. I hope that I can continue to have these times with them when we get together. I fully grasp that they have their own lives now so these times are special. I also got to have time with both Ron (Ariel's husband) and Michael (Amanda's husband). My hope is that I can be there for these guys as God has brought them into my life and I personally feel the desire to invest in them. My hope is that I can be a support to all of them. I hope that I can help them avoid so much of the failures that I have had in my life. Also, I want them to feel my care and love. Like Gilgamesh, life can be measured by those you have have loved and invested in and in spite of your own frailties. Perhaps there's an epic in all of our lives, even mine.
Perfect moment: holding Maddie and watching football.

As for holding Maddie, it felt so amazing. She drooled on my shirts. She would eventually find a comfortable position and fall asleep on me. This vulnerable, sweet, innocent baby had somehow found peace with me. I was instantly bonded to her. I seriously wanted the moment to last forever. Even cooler was that I could hold her and watch football with her. That felt like the perfect moment and maybe something we could share in the future (I can always dream).

What I do know is that if I loved this little girl from afar, having her this close to me made me love her more. This was most obvious when we had to leave. I had to find a private place to mourn leaving her. That was not expected. I was deeply depressed during the first leg of our plane flight home. What I now see is that even though I have three children, I never had any of them as babies. Fox was about 11 when he came into our lives. I sometimes forget that I'm not the girls biological father since I can't imagine my life without them. Even more so, I can imagine me loving them more than I do right now. But in reality, I never held them as babies. It was a process for us to go through to become father/daughter (and one I am so thankful for). So for the first time in my life I was bonded to someone that loved and trusted me instinctively. It was also the first time I then had to let go of that bond. Continuing in my process to live from the heart, I felt the depth of that loss. It was truly overwhelming. So I did cry when I met Maddie, but it was more for the fact that I was mourning her absence.
So here's to more meetings with Maddie and with Amanda expecting grandchild number two, a more full and deeper (and likely louder) Thanksgiving future.
That's how you make your granddaughter cozy!

Looking forward to more moments like this.
It's never too early to make sure your granddaughter knows how crazy Jiichan can be!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something Is Sweeter 'Cause We Met Along The Way

Ephesian 3:20-21
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

"Happy, happy, happy."
Phil Robertson

Random thoughts from a new grandfather...

First I have to say Happy Birthday to my beautiful and amazing granddaughter Madeline Brow. Welcome to the wonderful and crazy world that God has created for us! After the year that I have been through (losing my dad, losing my cousin, having shingles), Little Maddie, as I'm going to call her, is a very welcome gift from God.

From Wikipedia, here are some people that share a birthday with Maddie:
1903 – Walter O'Malley, American lawyer and businessman (d. 1979)
1940 – John Lennon, English singer-songwriter, musician, and producer (d. 1980)
1940 – Joe Pepitone, American baseball player
1944 – John Entwistle, English singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (The Who) (d. 2002) (I got to see The Who on my birthday only a few months before Entwistle passed away)
1948 – Jackson Browne, German-American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
1953 – Tony Shalhoub, American actor (Monk)
1954 – Scott Bakula, American actor (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise)
1958 – Michael Pare, American actor

1958 – Mike Singletary, American football player
1960 – Maddie Blaustein, American actress (d. 2008)
1962 – ┼înokuni Yasushi, Japanese sumo wrestler, the 62nd Yokozuna
1970 – Kenny Anderson, American basketball player
1975 – Sean Lennon, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor (and John Lennon's son)
One notable event occurred on October 9th: The Cincinnati Reds win the 1919 World Series over the Chicago "Black Sox".

Last night, the San Jose Sharks (the team Ariel, Maddie's mom, and I follow) gave Maddie and early birthday present with a 9-2 win over the New York Rangers. 19 year old Thomas Hertl scored four goals including one of the most amazing goals in hockey history:

Looking back the whole process started with the stunning news of my new found role as a grandpa. I was driving to the mall for some reason and just got into the parking lot. I'm thankful I was parked since I think that I would have put my car in a ditch if I was on the road. Ariel just said the words, "You're going to be a grandpa!" I think she thought I would react, but I was in stunned silence. It was like I was hit by a tidal wave. There was so much emotion: happy, excited, scared, and old. Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years" was playing in my head. I wish that I could have reacted more excited for Ariel, but I think I was in shock. It was a good shock, and after a moment it felt really good.

The next big news was finding out the baby is a girl and her name is Madeline (I'm going to call her Maddie or Little Maddie). I think that Ariel was connecting the name to those wonderful children stories of the little French girl Madeline. For some strange reason I kept connecting the name to the TV show Moonlighting which had the character Madeline Hayes. I think that's the first time I really heard the term Maddie used for the name Madeline. No matter what, I really love hearing the name. It now reminds me of someone very special to me.
My new motto!

Going forward I am looking forward to being a grandpa. Wow, that word still is going to take time to get used to. I'm wondering what memories we're going to have together? I'm looking forward to Maddie giving me a hug. Maybe she'll like hockey or ride motorcycles. Perhaps she'll be more into ballet and reading. To be honest I don't care. I hope I can read stories with her or eat ice cream with her at the mall. I like the thought of being able to spoil her with gifts and have lots of fun with her. I hope laughing is one of our favorite things to do together. Some day, I'll get to see her in a prom dress and tell her how beautiful she is. Even further down the line I can see her in a wedding dress and tell how proud I am of her. These are awesome thoughts that make me long for times to bond with her.

It's so strange to think how fast this has happened. Somewhere between graduating college and now, I've had three kids coming and going through my life and today a grandchild enters the picture. Being middle aged forces us to face the past and the future with some sobering thoughts: past triumphs and epic failures; great moments and missed opportunities; exciting challenges ahead and facing your own mortality. There's a lot there to take in. Somehow a little baby grandchild can put it all into perspective. She provides so much hope for the future, a legacy and another life to influence. She shows me that life will continue on even when I'm long gone and a distant memory. She will also carry a shadow of my self (both good and bad) in her. These are awesome thoughts.

So today I venture out to a new realm and new title. With it comes all of the joys and challenges. It will somehow be an adventure.

We'll walk by night, we'll fly by day...

After having to remove my dad from my address book, it was nice to add this to my calendar.

More pictures: