I should write, but I’d rather check Facebook.
I should edit, or I can scroll through Instagram one more time.
My Snapchat streaks are on fleek.
It’s getting to the point where I do these things subconsciously. The discipline to plant my butt in a seat and work for hours is gone. There’s so many distractions I’ve allowed -- sorry, someone just messaged me as I was typing this. I kid you not.
These aren’t bad things. How else would I easily keep in contact with my East Coast fam?
Maybe I want to be distracted. Life is so busy and seemingly pointless at times...who cares if I indulge in social media for hours?
Why am I even in Los Angeles? Jobs, yes of course. But if I came here solely to work, why am I still so dissatisfied?
No, I came to Los Angeles to create. To collaborate. To inspire and be inspired. Yet my days are filled with sitting in an office for eight hours, commuting for two hours, then playing video games at home for the rest, all while a muffled voice within me cries out, “YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASTE!”
Creating is hard. Consuming food is always easier than cooking it.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a good writer, or a good filmmaker, or if I even have ideas worth creating. To create is to be vulnerable, but I’ve become a little introverted since coming to the West Coast.
I know the problem. I’m impatient. I crave the feeling of being finished with a masterpiece, but I’m unwilling to get my hands dirty to make it.
There it is...the notification light on my phone is blinking. Someone has sent me a Snapchat. I picked it up, then put it back down. Lock screen. No, not now. I’m writing now. Focus.
I’ve been working on a new short for an HBO filmmaking contest, specifically for Asian Americans. How cool is that? Yet after working for over a month on the script with my girlfriend (She’s a screenwriter. Cool, right? Hashtag filmmaking power couple), it isn’t coming through. I had a vision for the film which became too long and convoluted...a good idea for a feature length, but not a short. Now we’re back to the drawing board and have less time to make something.
So what do I do now? Do I give up, admitting I wasted a month of her time, working our asses off on something that would never come to be? I can’t, and I won’t. However, the amount of time we have to meet our deadline stresses me out. A little over a month. That’s ridiculous.
Yet I have to create, don’t I? I will be severely disappointed in myself if I don’t, but I struggle to find a reason to do.
I worked so hard to write yesterday night, then fell asleep exhausted. Like a chicken without a head trying to be productive, I throw words at the screen hoping something will connect. Nothing does. It sucks. This film is dumb and pointless and--
Stop Josh, just stop. You’re so pessimistic. Creating should be fun, you mopey mop.
I know, Mr. Conscience, but if it’s supposed to be fun, why isn’t it? This is just like the time I tried to enter the Doritos commercial contest...all my creativity was forced and uninspired and IT SUCKED. I wasted people’s time. Also, why is “conscience” pronounced the same as “conscious”? Shouldn’t it pronounced “con-sci-ence”?
Josh. You’re getting distracted.
I know, sorry. It comes sub-con-sci-ence-ly.
You don’t have to create. There’s no penalty for not creating.
But I WANT to do it! I already do things I don’t want to do, why can’t I do things I actually want???
Because it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Thousands of people before you have already given up. But you’re a fighter, Josh. Even if you fail, you want to be able to say you tried. The only difference between people who are successful and those who aren’t --
-- are the ones that gave up and those who didn’t. That’s a good quote.
I know. You made it up yourself.
I’m pretty sure I’m paraphrasing someone else who worded it better, but I’ll take it.
Okay, I should stop talking to myself. I do that a lot. If it’s embarrassing, I was never informed. But now you know.
So what’s the point of this blog? I do have a point, but not sure if it’s being communicated through this word vomit.
Self-acceptance is better than forced creativity. I shouldn’t force myself to create, yet I need to overcome the obstacles of inspiration. My best art is produced when I’m being true to myself, not stressing out on how it will be received or the critique it may generate. I may not be great, but I can strive for greatness.
Don’t forget to stay grounded. Remember why you work. Remember your friends and family, those who love you most. Put Christ first, and He will give you the desires of your heart. He’s the one who gave you the gifts, so don’t waste your talents.
Time to get to work.
“He secretly looks up to you.”
Every so often I’ll hear a phrase that sticks with me. The longer it lingers, the more it begins to define me. I’m someone people look up to. I should act like one.
Words are power. The truths we speak into people’s lives can lay a foundation for decades to come. The lies we send into their hearts can cause unimaginable damage and destroy their spirits. Hurt people hurt people, but healed people heal people. I love every chance I get to speak a truth to a friend and build them up. When I receive a positive word, I eat it up like candy.
“You really think he looks up to me?” I asked.
“He doesn’t have anyone else to.”
A word of encouragement is like piece of armor, building itself around me like an Iron Man suit. I feel stronger. If I truly am a role model, I am accountable for my actions to both God and men. It irks me when celebrities say they’re not a role model, a weak excuse not to be one. However, I’m not like that.
I am strong and I can make a positive difference in the world. I want to serve people and be a blessing in their lives to the best of my ability. I know this because someone said two sentences to me.
Words are power. Did I say that already? I pray for opportunities to encourage others with my words, and the humility to apologize when I send a lie.
I love telling girls that they’re beautiful. I think more girls need to hear that. Unfortunately, this can come off as a bit flirtatious (unless they’re related to me). I do have a girlfriend though. Her name is Jenine. I try to remind her how beautiful she is whenever I can. More than one person has told her she wasn’t and I want to kick them in their shriveled nuggets. But that’s out of my control. What I can control is my own words, and how I use them to build others up, especially those close to me.
Let’s be real, it can be scary to speak encouraging words. It could come off as cheesy. Or awkward. Sometimes that’s enough to stop us, but it shouldn’t be. We can’t be afraid of a little awkwardness and risk losing the chance to potentially change someone’s life for the better.
I’ll never forget the summer of 2011. I had finished working at a summer program for seven weeks, taking care of third and fourth graders, playing games with them and teaching them about God. They were like my little brothers and sisters. Now it was over, and I was exhausted.
I went to my uncle’s Frontline prayer meeting on Saturday morning and knocked out. When I woke up, Matt the worship leader was playing “Healing Is In Your Hands” by Christy Nockels. As we started singing, my legs began to shake. So did my palms. Tears dripped down my cheeks and touched my chin. I sank to my knees, unable to stop crying or open my eyes.
People in the prayer meeting began speaking words of encouragement, prophecies, and visions over me. I remember them because I asked everyone to write it down and send it to me. These words have laid a foundation for who I am.
God is knighting you because He’s calling you into a deeper anointing. He is fully pleased with you and fully accepts you.
Just as you poured out love for the summer program kids, God is pouring out the revelation of his love for you.
He has called you to be an over-comer, a person that overcomes through Christ.
I think I emptied the tissue box that morning. The truth is, I’m only as strong as the people around me. Throughout my life, I’ve found strength and inspiration through my friends and family. I hope to continue passing it on.
Let me start this blog by saying I don’t feel like writing this. Perfectionism is something deeply ingrained into my psyche, something I act upon naturally. Without thinking, I am a perfectionist. However, I know it’s wrong, so bear with me as I try to unlearn it.
I know I can never be perfect, which makes being a perfectionist quite the rabbit chase. But what’s wrong with doing a good job, or better yet, a great job? Shouldn’t I strive for excellence, as close to perfect as I can be?
I used to think there was nothing wrong with that, until I discovered I was indirectly hurting my friends.
Rewind about ten years ago. I was in production on Ultrakids 2. I had recently learned how to use After Effects, a hobby that turned into my current career. Every Sunday, I would gather my friends to act in my movie project, while I directed, wrote, shot, and produced my soon-to-be masterpiece (which was crap). When things eventually spiraled out of my control, I had temper tantrums. I wrecked my relationship with some of my actors, yelling at them when they refused to cooperate.
Perfectionism says getting things done is first priority, because only then will everyone be happy. I figured if I created a great movie, all would be forgiven. Ultrakids premiered later that year at my church’s winter retreat. Everything was okay. No thunderous applause. No congratulatory remarks for the year of work I had invested in the film. In hindsight, I realized fourteen-year-old Josh wasn’t trying to make a great film. He was seeking acceptance/approval. He was trying to show his friends and family that he was actually good at something.
Perfectionism says you’ll only be loved if you work for it, because deep down inside, you’re really not worth anything. I know that God loves me no matter what, but a voice in my head tells me that God will love me just a little bit more if I do this right.
The truth is, God’s love for me doesn’t change. There’s nothing I can do to surprise Him, to shock Him, or separate myself from His love. He’s God, and I’m not. His mercies are new every morning. My inner pride may try to come up with reasons why I deserve God’s grace, and unfortunately in my warped mind, they sometimes make sense. However, when I try to justify grace, I subconsciously tell God that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross wasn’t enough. When I think I deserve grace, it prevents me from fully receiving it or giving it. And that’s a problem.
Six years after the Ultrakids incident, I was in production on Prebirth: The Eternal War. History repeated itself. I got into a bad fight with one of my crew members. Then, fast forward another two years. I found myself getting into conflict with my teammates during Heartsick, my most recent short film. I started noticing a pattern and needed to break out of it. Making movies wasn’t worth ruining my relationships.
It helps to look at my passion in light of eternity. When everyone I know is dead, I doubt anyone will care about my short films in heaven. Or the other place. But hopefully heaven. Heck, I doubt anyone cares about my short films a few months after they premiere. If heaven is real, the only things that matter in this life are the things that are eternal. God and people. To prioritize anything else is, frankly, stupid. Yet I do it all the time. This is my unlearning process.
I also like to ask myself this question: if I was a character in a movie, what would I want that character to do given this current situation? This applies to so much more than perfectionism, but I’ll give an example. Say I went to see a movie about an aspiring filmmaker who did whatever it took to be the greatest. He eventually went to Sundance and won a bunch of awards, losing a bunch of his closest relationships in the process. Woohoo. What a crappy movie that would be, right? Yet I live it out all the time. Still unlearning.
I wrote this earlier, but I’ll write it again because I’m still unlearning it. God’s love for me doesn’t change. Do I really believe that? I’m so used to earning acceptance and love through my accomplishments. I’m so prideful that even when I try to be humble, I rely on my own mental strength and cunning to change my arrogant attitude. Maybe the first step to receiving grace is to humble myself and ask for help. Because I can’t do it on my own. It’s in my sin nature, stuck to me like dragon skin.
Someone once shared a great quote with me that I’ll paraphrase. I’m not a Christian because I’m strong and have everything together. I’m a Christian because I’m weak and in dire need of a savior. In time, I pray I’ll unlearn my drive to be perfect and wholly surrender to a life defined by God’s mercy and grace. I hear it’s a lot better anyway.
Romans 3:20-24 (NIV)
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Wow. Is it December already?
I've been in LA for over four months now. What's changed? Namely, two things.
Number one, my dependence on God. As much as I'm attracted to the thrill of new things and adventure, I like the safety of home. Having family members around the corner, friends I've known since I was toddler, is rather comfortable.
I wish there was a verse in the Bible that went, "Thus saith the Lord, you will be very comfortable and chill for the rest of yo life." I looked. There was none.
Facing new challenges, new risks, and new relationships has forced me to the conclusion that I'm a trainwreck without God. Unfortunately, I'm a natural worrier, and life's never given me more things to worry about than right now. Rent. Jobs. Friendships and connections. General questions on "Where am I going in life?" I probably spent more time looking at myself and my own issues these past few months than ever before, and it wasn't healthy. I don't want to worry. Really, who does?
I want to be the type of person who pursues what God's giving them, nothing held back. Pastor Derrick and Matt would refer to it as being a "yes man" for God. Whatever God says, just say yes. A while ago, I felt God telling me to buy food and distribute it to the homeless. It took me a couple months of self-indulgence, but one weekend, I decided it was time to put up or shut up.
I went to Ralph's with my friend early in the morning. We spent about $120 putting together fifteen care packages and a bunch of bread, cold cuts, peanut butter, and jelly for sandwiches. Around noon, we met up with a couple friends at USC, including Brian Tang who documented some of it with his camera, put together the sandwiches and care packages, then hit the road, driving to God knows where.
There was no definite plan. I told my friends that. We just headed towards Little Tokyo, looking for homeless people along the way. I dubbed us the "Peanut Butter and Jesus" crew, and the car was the Peanut Butter and Jesus mobile. Hopefully that wasn't blasphemous.
It wasn't long until we found a small homeless community of about 10-15 people. I parked the car and popped the trunk. "Stay together guys!" We proceeded to give the homeless the care packages filled with water bottles, fruit, cookies, chips, toiletries, and of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were quite ecstatic. They even told us about another homeless community around the block that could also use supplies. That was nice of them.
We drove around Little Tokyo for a few more minutes while passing out the rest of the sandwiches, but our work was done. One of the guys later told me it was probably the highlight of his semester. I agreed - it was pretty fun. There's something refreshing about taking my eyes off myself and blindly doing what I feel God wants me to do. Even if it is a little random and weird. But that’s what makes it fun. :)
I don't know what God wants me to do next. It seems He's been opening door after door, telling me to trust that He'll guide me all the way through. I'm becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable, because there's no place I’d rather be than in the arms of my Father.
Number two, my love for people has changed. I know some people assume I'm a naturally kind and loving person, which I can be sometimes by the grace of God. But in all honesty, I have a tough time fully loving people I've just met, whether it be at a Bible study, a new church, or a random student at USC. I have to train myself to love people for simply being humans loved by God and created in His image, rather than analyzing whether they're worthy of love based off my sinful standards.
I play worship for a Bible study on Mondays, and I want to say how grateful I am for these new brothers and sisters in Christ who have welcomed me into their fellowship. And they feed me. That made me trust them immediately.
In all seriousness, I'm trying to see people through the eyes of God. His chosen, beautiful children, whom He longs to connect with. Can I live my life in a way that shows people how much God loves them? Christian or non-Christian, it doesn't matter. This is the way I want to live. This is what I'm going to strive for.
A couple months back, I made a blog post on pornography. It was fun. I love talking about porn. Not in a positive way, but in a open and honest way we as a Christ-centered family can deal with it. However, I did get a message from a friend, saying I was setting my standards too high. "Don't make such a big deal that you're not perfect," he told me. "Everyone does it."
But it's not about being perfect, I told him. It's about being set free.
I'm not okay with succumbing to the "natural" sinful habits of humans just because everyone else does. Let's fight the good fight, run the race, so that at the end we can hear God, the Almighty Freaking Awesome Creator of the Universe say "Well done good and faithful servant." I. Seriously. Cannot. Wait. Only about 60 more years or so to go. Hopefully.
Thanks for reading! See you next week with more Word Vomits.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12 (ESV)
Last week, I wrote about pornography and got a really good response. Apparently lots of people are addicted to porn. I’m suffering from self-inflicted pressure to follow up with something equally as engaging, but alas, this is Word Vomit Wednesday. Or Failure Friday, if I failed to post on Wednesday. Here we go.
Today’s topic is inspiration, a difficult topic because I don’t feel inspired right now. I don’t feel inspired too often. Life would be so amazing if I could live every day with purpose and meaning. When I don’t have work, I wake up at noon and sit in my pajamas, thinking of all the things I should be doing. It’s extremely productive 1% of the time when it motivates me to do something with my life. The other 99% finds me binge watching Youtube videos.
Speaking of Youtube videos, my Jubilee Project short film premiered this past week! No trolls in the comment section yet, just positive feedback about people crying. Is it bad that I feel good about making people cry?
By the way, this post contains mild spoilers for Heartsick, so if you haven’t seen it yet, click here! https://youtu.be/Qh439pXJjeM
We’ve been developing Heartsick since June 2015, but I have early drafts of the film that I wrote back in 2013 (psst...don’t tell anyone, they’re crap). No doubt, Heartsick has been the most inspired production I’ve ever worked on. And like my porn post, I feel self-inflicted pressure to follow up with something better, something even more inspired. But does it really work that way?
As a teenager, I would shoot Ultrakids movies for my church’s winter retreat. I would tell people they would see it at the retreat, even when I knew it might not be finished in time. But it always was. Even when I pulled two back-to-back all nighters to finish the last one.
During Heartsick’s production, I didn’t post about it on social media because I was in constant fear we wouldn’t finish. Or we’d mess up. Ha, we almost did! I had been instructed to make a shot list, which for me meant writing down all the shot ideas I had. HA. HA HA HA. There was a solid THREE HOURS of intense panic the night before we began shooting, because I hadn’t filled out the Excel sheet with the official schedule and whatnot. We almost went into production completely blind, if it hadn’t been for our team leaders, namely Kevon, who helped organize us and put us back on our feet. (correction: after reading this, Kevon reminded me it was five hours of panic, not three hours)
We didn’t discover the twist at the end of Heartsick until two or three drafts in. In my early drafts, I couldn’t even figure out a satisfying ending because what, was I just gonna have the dad return from war with joy? So predictable. Have him die? So unnecessary. But under the pressure of Ivan, our script advisor, we were able to find a unique ending that made us more confident in the script.
Most of my films have been solo outings. By that, I mean I gather a bunch of friends to act and do sound, while I direct, write, produce, and edit the movie. I didn’t realize how creatively taxing it was until we made Heartsick, where I only needed to focus on one of those things: directing.
It. Was. So. Much. Fun. It enabled me to engage with the “big picture” without having to worry about the itty-bitty details of the filmmaking process. A good example is Heartsick’s ending. Originally, the dad was not going to say a single word the entire film. However, the night before we shot the ending (it’s always the night before), I remember pitching a last-minute idea to Jenine, who wrote Heartsick. “I think we should have the dad write a letter to Dakota! Reverse the roles! Can you write it?” She did. And we shot it the next morning. That voice-over, which was so instrumental to the ending, almost didn’t make it in. But I would’ve definitely missed it if I was worrying about camera tech. Arnold, the director of photography, always took care of that. Or if I was too busy finding decent locations, which Elly, the producer, never failed to obtain.
That’s why I consider Heartsick better than all my previous short film attempts, because I wasn’t attempting alone. Three-fourths of the work was completed by people who were much better at doing it than me. We enabled each other to do our jobs better.
I love things that are done, and I love having accomplished something. I feel great right now. That being said, the act of doing and accomplishing things takes a little bit more out of me. So how does one self-motivate themselves? It helps to have other people push you, but even then, if I really wanted to be lazy, nothing could really stop me.
Sometimes I need to stop thinking about the ramifications of doing things and just actually do things. Cue Shia Lebeouf. I have a new life motto: always be impulsive when it comes to doing good. Be cautious, yes. Be smart, yes. However, too many times I’m succumb to a vague fear of the unknown, which prevents me from taking the risks I need to live an inspired life.
So this was super word-vomitty and all over the place, but if you guys are still with me, thank you for reading! And thank you for watching and supporting Heartsick; it’s been a fantastic ride so far.
I once saw a video on GodTube (yes, that exists) on how to deal with porn addiction. An enthusiastic pastor held out one hand and said, “Imagine a cookie. Satan’s handing you a cookie and telling you that you’ll like this.” The pastor switched hands and continued, “Now imagine God handing you an apple and telling you that this will be good for you. I promise you, if you imagine this every time you’re tempted to view pornography, you will overcome your addiction.”
I love cookies. Cookies are delicious. Especially the white chocolate chip ones. I don’t know how white chocolate chip is different from regular chocolate chip, but I just get more excited when I eat them.
Clearly that analogy didn’t work for me. If it works for Mr. Apple Loving Pastor or anyone else, great. But I feel like overcoming addiction is more complicated than tricking your brain into liking apples.
When I was fourteen, I started working at my grandma’s office. I made sure people paid their rent, helped with the computer stuff...and looked at porn online. It was my first time having unlimited access and freedom to check out naked women. My parents weren’t around. My grandma would work in the other room. I almost gave the computer a virus.
Every so often, you come across a dilemma in which the choice you make, a single choice, will forever alter the trajectory of your life. For me, that choice was to ‘fess up to my dad about my addiction. I would miss hanging out with my grandma, getting paid at the end of the week, and interacting with tenants, but fourteen-year-old Josh decided his morality was worth it.
My dad was reading the Bible in his bedroom alone. I nudged the door open. It creaked. “Dad? I have something to tell you.”
What transpired was one of the most defining moments I’ve had with my father. Instead of berating me, he helped me understand what I was feeling. No punishment, no condemnation, just love and acceptance. Sure, I’d have to quit the job, but I understood why. Often, we win or lose our battles before they begin. If I were to start breaking free of my addiction, I needed to avoid situations where I was prone to watch porn.
I’ll always be grateful to my dad for guiding me through the first step. But it was far from the end of the battle.
In an attempt to escape addiction, I got involved in ministry. It helped a lot, knowing that if I was responsible for the spiritual welfare of others, I should at least be somewhat spiritually healthy myself. Yet every couple weeks, I’d find myself falling back into the same vicious cycle. “Okay Josh, from this moment on, you are NOT doing that again.”
Fast forward one month later. “Really Josh? Are you kidding me? You are leading worship in a few weeks, get your act together!” Mondays were opportune moments to view porn. Then I’d have an entire week to get holy with God before Sunday came around. Ridiculous, yes. But it worked. I’d totally fall in love with God one morning, then check out a set of boobs the next. Ministry, while positive in all sorts of ways, only served as a temporary distraction from my porn battle. For years, I was stuck in a cycle of watching porn, then serving God, watching porn, then serving God. It eventually became depressing, causing me to believe that I’d be struggling with this until the day I died.
Writing that last paragraph disgusted me. Some of you may be wondering why I’m bothering to cover this topic. It’s safe to say a majority of us deal or have dealt with pornography. So why not talk about it? Problems remain problems when they’re kept secret. Darkness, when exposed to light, is vanquished. Simple as that.
So how did I eventually overcome my lust? I won’t lie and say I’ve been completely victorious and in control, but I struggle less with it after recognizing that porn was never the real problem.
I once heard a pastor say that if you’re dealing with lust, look out for anger. Keeping track of when I felt most susceptible to binge-watching XXX vids, I realized I’d often watch porn when I was resentful or bitter, especially toward my dad. Whenever I was pissed at him, the one who taught me to flee temptation, I googled naked women as if to spite him. Or maybe some crappy life events had just occurred and I succumbed to pornography, seeking relief. But why would I seek relief from something that increased the burden of guilt and shame? Did I really think I could spite God by sinning?
No matter how far I ran away from porn, I would always return to it if I hadn’t dealt with the core issues. My hurts, my anxieties, my grudges....God promised He would bring healing and peace to them all, if I let Him. But sometimes, I don’t trust God. Porn gives me a sense of control, like I could create my own joy or my own rest. It never works for long, though. When I surrender to His ways, which are far better than my own, porn loses its appeal. Why settle for artificial pleasure when I have the eternal love of my Lord and Savior?
After wrestling with porn for so long, I finally realized that despite all my filth, God never stopped loving me. He loved me when I was viewing porn; He loved me when I had self-righteous pride from not viewing porn. He loved me even when I hated myself. That stupid, stupid fourteen year old, look at him waiting for his grandma to leave the room so he could waste her time and money. God, you love that kid? That kid who promised you a million times that he would stop looking at your daughters that way, only to break his promises a million times plus one. I hate him, God. He’s me at my worst. Please don’t keep looking at him. Why are you still looking at him???
Gently, I hear His voice:
I love fourteen-year-old Josh. I love twenty-two-year-old Josh. My love for you never changed. My promises remain the same. Come to me child, and I will give you rest.
That was it. That was all I needed to hear from Him. The hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done was say yes.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)
Seven-year-old Josh held his father’s hand as they walked down East Broadway. Swimming lessons had concluded for the day, and Josh still refused to put his head underwater because he might drown. Sensing his dad’s disappointment, Josh conjured a genius idea that would enable him to live a worry-free life. “Dad,” he said, “I’m never going to take risks.”
Courage doesn’t come naturally to me. Fear does. At age seven, I was already making sacred oaths, dictating a dangerous mindset that could jeopardize my future. Seriously, can you imagine what life would be like if I never took another risk? My world mentality warped because I had aquaphobia?
A few friends from Jubilee Project have started a challenge called Word Vomit Wednesdays, where they give each other topics to blog about and post them later that day. Despite being written spontaneously, every post has been amazing. I’ve been wanting to join them for a while, but I doubted my ability to write something worth reading within a few hours. To me, writing is the greatest form of self-flattery. No one ever writes to make themselves look like an idiot (unless they actually are an idiot). Back in September, I made a goal to blog every two weeks, which I’ve clearly failed for that reason -- I’m afraid to look like an idiot.
My JP teammate Jenine gave me today’s topic: fear. Your post should focus on what some of your biggest fears are, physical or emotional, and how you deal with those fears and find growth through them.
My entire life has been an adventure of overcoming fears. I eventually learned how to swim, even though I look like limping turtle when I do. I forced myself to write and publish a novel. That’s one off the bucket list. I skipped college and moved to California. Yet for the few major fears I’ve defeated, twenty-three thousand more remain.
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (ESV)
I have a vision of the person I want to become. He’s a combination of my greatest role models, people I know personally and people I don’t. He loves others unconditionally like Jesus did, without stopping to analyze whether or not they’re worthy of being loved. He’s not afraid of giving everything for Jesus because he knows this life is not all there is. I wish I could live like this guy. Let’s call him Bob.
If my goal is be like Bob, then my greatest fear is becoming the anti-Bob.
Deep down inside, I’m afraid of being an a--hole. I’m afraid of hurting the others, subconsciously or not. I’ve definitely done it before.
When I was eleven, I had my first crush. Her name was Amy. Go ahead and try to find her on my Facebook, you creeps. Just kidding, I tried myself. Didn’t succeed. She was super nice to me, but for some reason, my eleven-year-old brain couldn’t cope with my emotions and decided to be mean to her. I distinctly remember her asking me politely if I was born in America. My response? “Of course I was. Duh. What you’d think?” Josh, you sarcastic little prick. Way to draw in the ladies. Due to my unpleasantness, she stopped trying to talk to me.
I didn’t see Amy for the next four years. I regretted being rude to her, or rude in general. Then one Friday night, she came to pick up her little brother from fellowship. I spotted her figure behind the church doorway. For a second, I contemplated running up to her and saying, “HEY! You probably don’t remember me, but I’m the kid who was super rude to you four years ago and I just wanted to say I’m sorry, I actually had a crush on you and now this is awkward.” Or just simply apologizing to get rid of my guilt. But I didn’t.
Eleven years have passed, yet I still remember this! It's almost like a core memory (Inside Out reference yay). Every other times I hurt people with my words and realize it, something inside me plants a red flag that may never go away. I usually apologize, but sometimes I don’t. It’s awkward if too much time passes and the guilt sticks with me forever. I really hate being mean to people, and I hate myself when I do so subconsciously. I doubt anyone ever plans on being an a--hole.
This fear prompts me to be aware of how my words affect others, but it also prevents me from saying potentially encouraging words that may be taken the wrong way. I do believe we have the supernatural ability to speak words of truth given to us directly by God to others, if we're open and brave enough to say them.
I once felt God pushing me to tell a mother that He loved her son more than she did. When the thought entered my head, I did a double take. How does one tell a mother that anyone, even God, loves her children more than her? Apprehensively, I spoke the words. I’ve learned that whenever I’m afraid to do something positive, it’s usually a clear sign God wants me to do it.
The mother laughed. With joy, not with contempt. She told me that was exactly what she had told her small group and that I had just confirmed it. Oh. I guess that worked. Thanks God!
So what does this all mean? I know for certain I don’t want to be a fearful person. I’ve seen too many people unable to dunk their heads under troubling waters, floating in the safe areas of life but never going deeper. I think God wants me to take risks. He wants me to obey Him fearlessly and be willing to go wherever He leads me. I have no idea what that looks like, but I’m not afraid of the unknown anymore. The bottom of the pool still looks dark and scary, but I know it’s not that bad. After all, I’ve got God. And He’s more than enough for me.
P.S. Sorry if this was super word vomitty. Ironically, I was dealing with a lot of fear as I wrote this post (fear of being judged is also a big one for me). Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll see you next week if fear doesn’t completely overcome me. Help me, Lord.
Also check out the other wonderful blogs by my fellow word vomitters! #WordVomitWednesdays
Taylor // Brian // Xing // Judy // Justin // Hnou // Esther // Jenine
Please help me get a selfie with Jeremy so I can bring honor to my family.
I quietly prayed in the back row of the Jubilee Project Conference, where Jeremy Lin was doing a Q&A. Long story short, I didn’t bring my family honor. My head made up a couple pixels in a selfie Jeremy took with the entire conference. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers.
After Jeremy left, I bumped into a guy who had raised his hand during the Q&A. “Dude, you got to talk to Jeremy Lin!” I joked with him. Social constructs dictated we introduce ourselves. His name was Marshall (not really, I changed his name for ambiguity’s sake), and his dream was to be an actor.
I switched into director mode, analyzing Marshall’s physique. He resembled an Asian Seth Rogen. Somewhat. I tried picturing this guy becoming a famous actor and Seth Rogen was the closest equivalence. I hope he’s good at comedy, I thought to myself. Turns out he was interested in action and drama. I imagined myself directing Mission Impossible 6 with him in the cast. Nah. “Are you good at comedy?” I asked. Marshall shrugged. “I guess I’m open to that,” he replied.
I forced a smile as I word-vomited every encouragement cliché that came to mind. “Keep pursuing your dreams, man. Nothing’s impossible, as long as you work hard and stay focused.”
Marshall grinned and thanked me for the kind words. He then went into detail about how his parents didn’t support his acting dreams. He had come all the way from Texas, lied to his folks about the trip, and was looking for a break because he couldn’t stand his current major. I began looking for my friends. “Well, good luck dude,” I told him, and split.
As the conference went on, it seemed I would either constantly bump into him, or hear other people talk about him.
“There’s a guy who really wants to be an actor.”
“Oh yeah, that’s him.”
One conference speaker told us to get into pairs and discuss a question: imagine ten years from now, you’ve accomplished your dreams. What do you do next?
Lo and behold, Marshall saw me and smiled. Can’t turn back now! I reluctantly sat next to him, smiling back. During the ten minutes we had to chat, he talked for nine. He had a huge dream, and oh the possibilities if it were to come true! My knee began bouncing like a vibrating cell phone. This was my last day at the Jubilee Project Fellowship, and I really wanted to spend quality time with my fellows, not a stranger who I’d probably never see again. I quickly told him what I might do if my dream came true (buy a yacht or something), then went back to my fellows, leaving Marshall sitting alone in the back row.
Several fellows were wearing cool wristbands with a metal ring attached, called MyIntent bracelets. On the metal ring, you could choose a word that you wanted to intentionally live out, such as love, forgiveness, etc. I asked how much it was. Twenty-five dollars. Da heck. Too pricey for some string and ring.
One fellow, Xing, who is an incredible dentist and poet along with being a filmmaker, asked me what my word was. Generation, I said. I liked the second verse from the song “Hosanna”, which talks about seeing a generation rising up with selfless faith. “That’s what I hope to see in this generation, and the generation after us,” I said. “I want to help people live for something greater, which is my way of living for something greater.”
Before I knew it, Xing had pulled me over to the MyIntent booth and bought a wristband for me. “Dude, you didn’t have to!” I stammered, yet extremely grateful. I didn’t think my love language was gifts, but receiving an awesome bracelet made me rethink it.
The booth operator, Peter, asked me what my word meant. I went through my spiel about investing in our generation. Peter looked me in the eye. “You know,” he said, “there are a lot of people at this conference who are alone. They could use someone like you to be there for them.”
A ghostly, Lord of the Rings-esque voice whispered into my brain. Maaaaarrshaaalll.
I knew what I had to do.
Marshall was walking up the stairs when I ran into him again. “Hey man,” I said, stopping him where he was. I let some people pass us. “I just wanted to say, if you ever need help putting together a demo reel, let me know.”
For me, this was the closest thing to saying “I believe in you” without actually saying it.
Marshall glanced at me, and this time, looked genuinely grateful. He knew I meant it. “Thanks bro, that really means a lot.”
“Like I said, let me know.” We exchanged contact information, then parted ways for the last time.
As I played with the MyIntent bracelet, it occurred to me that I actually suck at investing in people. My natural default is to stay in my comfort zones. If Xing hadn’t bought me the bracelet, if Peter hadn’t reminded me of Marshall, I would have spent the entire conference chilling with my friends. And there’s nothing morally wrong with that. However, if I were to pursue God’s calling on my life and truly live for something greater than my own wants and desires, then I have to be intentional about it. Like my bracelet.
I wear that bracelet every day now. Not gonna lie, it’s super difficult to constantly invest in other people. So the next time you see me with the word generation around my wrist, feel free to stop and ask if I’ve been intentional about living for other people. Hopefully the answer will be yes, along with a new story to tell. If not, I’ll keep working on it, which I pray I always will be.
Also, I still want a selfie with Jeremy Lin.
P.S. check out a recap of the JP Conference in this video! I'm in it several times: https://youtu.be/rfz_le-J7YY
“Josh, do you realize you have two voices?”
I scrunched my face, confused. Joseph, Brian, and I were in the middle of a deep, late night talk, the kind that happens at four in the morning, half-awake, half-asleep in the USC Cardinal Gardens. The three of us had sunken into the outdoor couches, lazily tossing sentences to each other while staring at the ocean blue sky.
“What do you mean?” I asked Joseph.
“Your voice changes, depending on certain situations I guess,” he said. “It’s hard to describe.”
I had never heard anyone say this to me. Ever. Maybe it was like my New York accent. I don’t hear it, so I don’t change it.
“Well, next time I switch voices, tell me,” I said. I glanced at Brian, passed out on his couch. Joseph was ready to dip next, but I saw him nod okay before he did.
Fast forward three months. I had participated in the Jubilee Project Fellowship, a two week program where thirteen filmmakers were gathered from around the world to make short films together. If it sounds intense, it is. But not for the reasons you’d expect. I came into the program expecting a hands on filmmaking experience, which I got. However, the community I encountered was so much greater, so much better than any film camp could ever be. This fellowship focused on creating a safe space for people to be open, an environment where vulnerability was considered strength, not weakness.
On the first night, the fellowship director, Eugene, sat us down in front of a white board. He drew a circle. “Let’s say this circle is the true you,” he said. He drew another circle around the first one and wrote the word shame. Lastly, he drew a third circle around the first two. “This is the person you present to the world, that covers up your shame and hides the true you.”
“During fellowship, let’s try to show this side of yourself,” he said, pointing to the innermost circle. And for two weeks, I did exactly that.
Then it ended. We said goodbye to the community we had so quickly formed. Several fellows were staying in Los Angeles for a couple more days, so we made a point to hang out the upcoming week. However, something was different. Don’t get me wrong, I treasured every millisecond I spent with my fellow fellows. But I was different. All my insecurities that had vanished during fellowship began bubbling underneath my subconscious. Walls of shame rebuilt themselves in less than twenty-four hours. And my voice changed.
My first voice I’ll call my normal voice. It’s the voice closest to who I am. Josh Jackson. Myself. It’s talkative, slightly deep, and optimistic. It likes to make corny jokes and goofy puns. I can use it both in a serious conversation or a lighthearted mood. It’s confident.
My second voice I’ll call my shame voice. It’s secretly nervous, but tries to play cool, look chill, and make an impression. It’s a lot deeper, bassier, and makes my Adam’s apple reverberate like a sick beat. I mumble sometimes when I use this voice because it’s rather quiet and calm. Behind it are layers of insecurities and the lies I tell myself. Like I’m not worthy of being loved. Or I’m too skinny to be good-looking, unless you fancy skeletons. My Adam’s apple looks like a second Josh growing out of my neck. I’m too whitewashed to be Asian, but too Asian-looking to be white. The list goes on and on and on and on and on. Seriously. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The scary thing is that I’m not even fully aware of all my insecurities hidden within my subconscious. I probably buried them a long time ago, hoping that if I ignored them, they wouldn’t affect me. Or my voice.
So that’s when it hit me. I have two voices. Looking back on the past twenty-two years, I now had a new vision that spoke volumes of clarity into my life thus far.
For example, I’ve never used my shame voice when I’m around my cousin Dylan, or my immediate family. I’m so comfortable around them. If I’m trying to impress a certain family member with my status on life (I dislike questions concerning my education), then I may use my shame voice. If I’m the youngest of a group, I’ll likely use the shame voice. If I’m in a new environment, shame voice.
At my previous job, I used my shame voice ninety-nine percent of the time. I loved my coworkers, who were some of the funniest people in the world, but I felt so insecure around them. I constantly worried that I would tell a dumb joke and no one would laugh. I almost felt embarrassed about being the only Christian and how I was obsessed with Jesus while most doubted his existence. My coworkers would ask me questions about Asian culture, then quickly discover how whitewashed I was and how I sucked at ping-pong. I wanted to appear cool and unique, but deep down, I knew I was a sham.
I quit my job in April to explore new opportunities in California for a month. During that trip, I met so many new friends in a filmmaking environment where I felt at home. But guess what? The shame voice would still pop up during conversations. I thought I could reinvent myself around these new people, but a wall of shame blocked my attempts. The location had changed, but my insecurities hadn’t. Cue the second voice.
So what do I do now? I don’t think I’m close to uncovering all the insecurities buried inside of me. I do know the best way to combat shame is to be vulnerable, honest, and open.
Later that day, I told all my Jubilee Project friends about my two voices. As I did, I felt my shame voice shrivel up and flee, liberating my normal voice to take control for the remainder of the day. A sense of freedom washed over me. Freedom from fear. Freedom from uncertainty, performance, and legalism. I’m pretty sure a stupid grin planted itself on my face as I shared this with JP. My normal voice, filled with enthusiasm, didn’t even care how they might respond. I was just happy to be free.
One of my team leaders, Taylor, encouraged me to keep being aware of my second voice. It’s probably going to come back. Discovering my layers of hidden shame is only the beginning. But now that I’m aware of it, I can fight it. It’s comforting to have a physical telltale sign when my shame is rising within me. And by combatting my shame, I hope I can be a better person, free to love people without restraints like Jesus did, unafraid to be vulnerable outside of my comfort zones. Ultimately, I think that’s what God has called me to do here in California: to love people. And by His grace alone, that’s what I’m trying to do.
I saw Inside Out yesterday night, and as expected, it was incredible. It had a noticeably strong sense of story structure; even while watching it, I realized Blake Snyder's beat sheet could easily be applied. Now, I know there's some stigma about the 15-point beat sheet, due to the fact that it's overused and can be formulaic if handled inappropriately. However, I think it's a cool easy way to give a broad look at a story's structure. It honestly wasn't hard to plug Inside Out into the beat sheet, so without further ado, here it is. And obviously...SPOILERS!!!! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
1. Opening Image: Riley is born in Minneapolis, conjuring five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger.
2. Theme Stated: Joy takes a disliking to Sadness, not sure why she exists when all she does is make things sad, the opposite of Joy’s mission: keep Riley happy.
3. Set-Up: Upon turning eleven, Riley moves to San Francisco when her father gets a new job. She goes to a new school where she is asked to introduce herself. It starts out fine, but Riley begins tearing up when thinking about her old home, a joyful memory that Sadness accidentally touched, much to Joy’s despair.
4. Catalyst: While struggling with Sadness to prevent Riley from crying, Joy causes both her and Sadness, along with the core memories, to be sucked up the memory tube and out of Headquarters.
5. Debate: The Personality Islands go down. Joy and Sadness try to figure out how to get back to Headquarters. Fear, Anger, and Disgust try to figure out how to replicate the joy in Riley’s life.
6. Break Into Two: Realizing Sadness knows the way back to Headquarters, Joy asks her to lead them back in order to restore Riley’s personality.
7. B Story: Meet Bing-Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend, who is trying to reconnect with Riley and can help get Joy and Sadness back to Headquarters. They make a plan to ride the Train of Thought back to Headquarters.
8. Fun and Games: Joy, Sadness, and Bing-Bong make their way through the Personality Islands. Throughout this journey, Joy begins to notice Sadness can fix things in ways that seem counterintuitive to Joy’s M.O. (eg Sadness comforts Bing-Bong when he loses his rocket in the abyss).
9. Midpoint: They wake up Riley and restart the Train of Thought.
10. Bad Guys Close In: Anger enacts a “backup plan” that causes Riley to run away back to Minnesota where all her good memories were made. The Train of Thought gets destroyed when Honesty Island crumbles. Joy thinks that can make it back through a memory recall tube, but refuses to let Sadness come in fear that she’ll corrupt the joyful core memories. The tube is also destroyed as Family Island crumbles (Riley boarding the bus back to Minnesota), sending Joy and Bing-Bong into the abyss.
11. All Is Lost: Lost in the abyss, Joy succumbs to tears as she shifts through Riley’s old childhood memories, now forgotten, now fading.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: While watching Riley being consoled by her teammates and parents (a joyful memory), Joy realizes that Sadness had caused this to happen during Riley’s grief of missing a winning shot (a sad memory), which signaled others to come and console her.
13. Break Into Three: Now realizing she needs Sadness, Joy and Bing-Bong attempt to fly out of the abyss with a rocket. Bing-Bong sacrifices himself, realizing that his past with Riley is weighing the rocket down. He cheers as Joy exits the abyss, then fades away.
14. Finale: Joy and Sadness make it back to Headquarters, where Joy lets Sadness take control. Riley returns home to her parents, breaking down in tears while admitting she misses home. Her parents comfort her, making a joyful memory.
15. Resolution: Riley continues to adapt to life in San Francisco. New Personality Islands are built. The entire team of emotions, including Sadness, now work together to guide Riley through her future life.