Trust no one

When I first moved to Hollywood, CA back in the late 80’s, I remember it being a time of discovery. A time I was beginning to learn the ropes of life away from the comforts of my own hometown. I lived near Sunset and La Brea where, back in those days, the craziness was at its peak. Or so, it seemed. It was supposed to be a bit scary actually, but I wasn’t scared at all. I thought it was just festive and that’s what I liked about it.


One night, I remember driving to a Laundromat down on Sunset to wash my clothes. I had a boatload and needed a ton of quarters to get them all washed. So I used the bill changer to get my quarters. Now, most of the washers were in use at that moment, and I had to wait till they’re done. Since I had time, I thought I’d go next door to grab a slice of pizza. What I did before I went out is that I left all my quarters sitting on top of the washer. When I came back, the maintenance lady got on my face and said, “Are you nuts, leaving your money out here? This is Hollywood, boy! You’re lucky I knew it was yours and I made sure no one took it.”

Well, I thanked the lady and went on my merry way. Then it dawned on me later, I left the money there thinking it’s no big deal. Hollywood, schmollywood! Why would anyone steal it, I thought? I mean, that’s crazy talk! Who in their right mind would do such a thing?

Needless to say, I eventually learned that a lot of people, in fact, aren’t in their right minds, at times. Me, included! Imagine that. So now, I had to go from knowing nothing to knowing too much! I had to go from being naive to being suspicious. From being carefree to being careful. From trust to doubt. Smooth to scarred. It’s what the world calls… being wise.

But isn’t that what the world teaches, anyway? Really. To trust no one? I wonder sometimes, if the ones who consider themselves experienced, learned, wise… the ones who say, “enough is enough” or “no more”… I wonder if they still experience true happiness and contentment? I wonder if they’re still able to love unconditionally? To be sincere and compassionate? It’s hard to imagine. Or what if they are, indeed, wise enough to admit that they have been scarred? That they have certainly lost their spiritual virginity and have become a victim of this enslaving world that rejects God?

I am a victim. But I also admit to having allowed myself to be one. And I am just now getting myself back to where I used to be. Back to where it’s safe. Back to where there is freedom. And pure joy. Back to the world of trust. Hey, “wise” can sometimes be overrated, you know?

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?  ~ Psalm 118:6

Almost there… I hope you’re waiting.

Contentment + Gratitude = Peace

peaceIn light of the current economic recession, I found myself pondering lately on how I’m incredibly blessed to have a stable job, right now. And not only is it stable, I truly feel that with this job, I am being paid for my hobbies, too! To wake up on Monday mornings excited to go to work is something I don’t take lightly. I am grateful that I am not only passionate about the work that I do, but also because I work with people whom I trust and consider friends… a very important factor, I believe. I can honestly say that in the last four years working where I work, I haven’t felt an ounce of stress, at all. Being in the office, in fact, does not feel all that much different from staying at home, either. This is just ridiculously good! Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how much longer I can get away with it.

But even that’s only the beginning.

The real story I wanted to tell here is what dawned on me, this past couple of days. I realized that I have been debt-free for exactly one year now. Yes!!! I was able to pay off everything I owed right about the time the economy was beginning to falter. After having religiously lived like a broke college student (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean…) for many years, I was now able to breath freely and… well, not hesitate to fill up the tank and go for a joy ride, every now and then.

But wait… here’s the cherry on top of the whipped cream. Right after my debt was paid off, I set up an automated savings account just so I can get myself back to financial normalcy without having to think about it, all the time. Now, I had forgotten about this account. Yesterday, I decided to give it a look. Well, what do you know? I was surprised to find in there – well, let’s just say a substantial amount I’ve never had before! Just like that! I was like… gee wiz, if not for my occasional trips to Guitar Center (which, by the way, can be hazardous to a struggling musician’s financial health), I would’ve ended up with much more! Haha! Nope, not complaining at all!

Anyhow, I’m not saying this is a lot or even a big deal of a case. Circumstances are obviously different for everyone. But for a single guy who loves the simple life and doesn’t need much (well, sans the occasional musical acquisitions), this is absolutely monumental. Yet, I don’t think my spending habits have changed much at all, after all these years. When you’ve trained yourself to be content out of necessity, contentment eventually becomes a comfortable way of life… even long after necessity has expired. And this goes beyond mere finances, of course! When you are grateful for the littlest things that come your way, trust me, the peace it allows you is simply priceless. And no matter where we’re at in life, isn’t peace what we all crave for, ultimately?

I thought so. Especially, in times like these.

Ask not

Sometimes, I find myself being frustrated with my church. You know, like I want it to be a certain way but it’s not. If it only does this and not that. Or, if only they have this and not that. Whatever.

Every church has its own culture. For the most part, that culture rubs off from that of its surrounding community and society. The church I’m in now isn’t the one I grew up in. And neither is the city. I will forever be the new kid in town, where I am right now. But that’s not my point.


It’s not necessarily wrong to desire for a change in one’s religious culture – be it of the church or society – if you’re willing to do the work. It’s going to take an enormous amount of time and effort to do it (especially for a stranger like me). And on the way, there will be resistance of all kinds. Don’t believe me? Go, ask Jesus.

Me? Actually, I’m willing. Maybe, I’m just unable. Or so, I think. Anyhow, just because I’m used to certain things doesn’t mean it has to be that way all the time. Right? Well, there’s my excuse! Flexibility is beneficial in life. I realize that in most churches, people come and go because they church-hop hoping to find the “right” church for them. And I can understand that. To a degree, that is. I’m beginning to see that this can, indeed, become a sin as well. Trying to be in control when God should be. Giving in to what we want instead of looking beyond our circumstances to see what God is trying to say to us. Finding the perfect church is a futile attempt, I think. Any church “can” be the right church, if only we listen closely to what God is telling us instead of what we’re trying to tell ourselves. A desire for convenience can sometimes lead our hearts astray. It’s a comfort zone issue.

Bottom line is, as long as humans stay imperfect, we’ll never find the “perfect” church. However, we will always find our hearts, regardless of its condition, in any church we’re in. And I certainly don’t want to find my heart in a bad condition at a church that God has put me in. I want to find out what he has in store for me. I’m sure it is good. I know it is. Maybe, I won’t find it today. But I trust that someday, I will. Like the saying goes – In his time.

So meanwhile, I say… Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for it. For by this, God’s voice will resonate louder than ours so that our purpose will become clear to us. We will then find an answer to our questions and meaning to our lives.

God bless.

Got ten thousand talents?


As usual, I played music for our worship team at church this morning. It wasn’t anything new or spectacular. Just another Sunday service full of technical difficulties and an out-of-tune guitar (mine). Glad no one noticed. In fact, I was on my way out to the parking lot when a flattering voice came from behind.

You have great talent, Chris!

Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I have to admit, this wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me either. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment. However, every single time it happens, I’m always confused as to whether or not it’s something I’d really like to hear. Well, rather than, say… “You’re a good man, Chris!”

And to make matters worse, the sermon this morning dealt with the scripture about The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant and let me tell you, did it have something new to tell me this time around! I know the story is about forgiveness, however, something else came up to me while reading it. I see that Jesus is comparing the magnitude of having to forgive a debt of ten thousand talents (millions of dollars) as opposed to just a hundred denarii (a few dollars). Now, we’ve all read the famous Parable of the Talents where burying your talents is said to be a very bad thing. Talent is a good thing. Talent is a gift. It needs to be multiplied, shared and used for God’s work. Just like money, it’s a currency that needs to circulate. So, back to the first parable, it showed me that a talent is something we owe God. And talent is something we all have in some capacity, believe it or not.

Perhaps, this is the reason I am uneasy everytime I hear a flattering statement about my talents. It’s probably because I don’t like the idea that I’m indebted. And just like money, talents can lead you to places you don’t want to go. Just like money, it can be used as an instrument of both good and evil.

Speaking of talent, I can boast of one I know I’m really good at… sinning. Yep, a recurring talent, if you will. As well as a debt I can never repay.

How about you? You got talent? How much?

The leader of the quack

Lito, Chris & Allen

Ahh, yes… the joy of childhood fantasies!

Our parents must’ve been looking for us by now. But as the self-proclaimed chief of the mob, I had convinced my younger brother Lito (to my right) and cousin Allen (my left) to rebel instead, by going outside the house for a minute to terrorize the neighborhood with our sinister presence. Look out, people!

Though, funny how if we took that same picture today, I’d be the shortest one in the group… looking more like a stupid duck than The Wild One, actually. Hmmm…

So, maybe we’ll just scrap that idea for now. Some memories are best left alone and not relived, I suppose. 🙂

Weapon of choice

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a couple of days now but haven’t had the time to do so. There was this news article that hit me like a ton of bricks. Two teenage girls walking down the street are intercepted by men who throw acid on their faces simply because they’re going to school. Sort of a punishment for their desire to get an education, I guess. I don’t really need to go into the moral aspect of this incident since it is pretty obvious that the act was not only wrong but utterly coward.

I mean, is that all they have to scare these two defenseless individuals with? A bottle of acid? Apparently, it was nothing. They had a lousy weapon. What a shame! Is it because they knew that knowledge was a weapon that might be used against them eventually? Or was it because they were women and that they didn’t like the idea of them getting anywhere in life, let alone getting ahead of them? It probably was a scary thought that they just had to shamelessly put a stop to it. Whatever it takes.

But there’s something worse. Apparently, there’s a chance that someone from the authorities are actually paying these men to commit such acts on a regular basis and to make it look like it wasn’t their idea. They’re even paying them for each teacher they kill. It’s nauseating, really. And to know that these girls are helpless, what weapon could they possibly pick up to be able to fight back somehow? Just for human rights, and no more.

Education? Yes, but when it is forcefully taken away from you, there has to be something else in the meantime, to take its place. What could it be? Anger? Force? Rebellion? Or could it possibly come from a different place? Perhaps, like courage? Faith, maybe? Hope?

It’s fairly easy for a lot of us to give our two cents on this, I’m sure, since we’re far away from such situations. But I’d like to be able to put myself in the shoes of those oppressed and really see how difficult it is to find a way out when one is locked up not only physically, but also emotionally and culturally.

Personally, it seems like all I can think of right now is pray.

Speaking of weapons…

I hope he fails…?

What? Excuse me?

Not only is this a rude comment, in my opinion… what’s worse is that it drags along with it more than just the person being spoken of here, but more importantly, the world that is now celebrating a collective sense of victory.

Now, I can say that I’m as much into politics as James Hetfield is into Britney Spears. But, out of curiosity, I do read about it sometimes. Especially, these days when the entire planet is all ears on something very specific. On CNN this morning, they aired Rush Limbaugh’s comment on Barack Obama and I couldn’t help but notice the way we sometimes, as human beings, can be. Focused on self. I’m not belittling anyone’s personal opinion but sometimes, it helps to simply join hands with the majority even when we don’t agree. Just for the sake of peace and unity, if anything. Everyone knows that no one will ever agree a hundred percent with anyone. Or on anything, for that matter. But whether we like it or not, things happen for a reason. And I choose to believe it’s always a good one, on the whole. If we don’t allow faith and hope to give us a chance, I’m afraid we will have run ourselves out of luck.

This past few days, it’s hard to ignore the feelings of people, not only in the U.S., but all over the world. The unguarded happiness, the pride, the feeling of hope fulfilled and the sense of gratitude. Politics aside, I believe that it would do all of us good to just appreciate this momentary lapse of negativity, as it rarely lasts awhile. Much like any kind of celebration, it all comes to an end eventually. And the very next day will leave everyone a personal task. One that will make sure the party the night before was not held in vain. One that will allow us to witness even more personal successes, not failure. And one that will give us a reason to keep on celebrating, in fact.

For one man’s victory can be ours, as well. But then again, so can his failure. So, why hope for that?

Junk deluxe


This photo was taken in Hollywood, CA sometime in the mid ’90’s… A bunch of my friends and I wanted to get rid of some of our personal junk for a good cause. So we decided to set up a weekend yard sale out on a vacant lot somewhere. As far as I can remember, we did good on our little fund-raiser. One reason that, I believe,  gave us the edge was that we had entertainment provided. After all, we were artists and could come up with such unique twist to rouse up an otherwise humdrum activity.

Here we were on an early Saturday morning spreading our wealth for all to ogle on. And hopefully pay cold hard cash for. Well, it wasn’t much, I realize now. But anyhow, here my friend Mike is checking out Myles’ cello to see if it’s really in tune, as he claims it is. After all, this is a make-or-break gig in which the success of our operation heavily depended on.

Myles (wearing a hat) was our entertainer, indeed. As the rest of us smiled and greeted passersby and onlookers, there he was serenading and luring them into being prospective buyers of our rubbish.

Ahh… the things you do for Jesus!

Mr. Nanny goes berserk

That’s it!! You’re just gonna have to clean up your own mess this time, Nevada!


Only one of us is having the most fun, at this very moment, it seems.

My patience,  I swear, was being tested by this young lady during a time her parents were out running errands or something. But no, it’s not all cereal-spillingfest everytime. For the most part, it was a lot of fun for both parties, actually. And a very fulfilling  job. For me, anyway.

It’s been a while, but I got to be nanny to my friend’s four kids once. That’s right! Four! I can only imagine how being a parent to four overcharged little creatures can be like. It was quite an adventure for sure, yet a moment that will always have a special place in my heart.

I never had kids myself but I have gone through life numerous times, with little people popping in here and there, giving me headaches, chores to do, unanswerable questions to ask… heck, even a reason to love them, believe it or not! In fact, I believe there’s no better way to grow up than to experience life with kids growing up themselves. And getting down to their level, meeting them where they’re at. It might put a few gray strands on your head but I reckon, it’s all worth it in the end.

The few times I was privileged to spend any time with kids, at all – be it a step father, a big brother, a teacher or even just a mere nanny, in fact – were the ones I treasure the most. Am I good at it? Well, it’s not an easy thing, to say the least, and I seem to stumble a lot. Although I try to pick myself up, everytime. And yes, I would do it again, if given a chance. Hopefully, having grown up a little, by then.

But time seems to be running out, isn’t it?