Bounding Over Hill and Mountain

It still feels like yesterday that I was living in a three-room house with four other guys, where actually having too much time on my hands was a problem. I still feel like I should be alone and miserable when going to bed, wishing there was someone beside me, yet when I turn—there she is. How did such a radical change take place? As recently as 2016, I’d never had a girl express the slightest interest in me. Now I have two wonderful daughters waking up at night and crying for daddy. How did this happen so quickly?

30,000 feet beneath, the landscape of California passed by. I stared out my window and watched. It was January, and beautiful shades of green covered the state. My belongings were in storage, and I was on the way to the Philippines to see my love. In the dead of winter below, mountains were capped in white. And as we passed north, jutting up like a snow-capped head, the stark form of Mount Shasta erupted up from the landscape. Northward and northward we passed, colder and colder, hills and forests and mountains and bays passing beneath.

Thoughts of my beloved filled my heart as we soared over the continent, the landscape fading into starker and starker white. Despite all the entertainment options within the plane, I couldn’t take my eyes off the dramatic winter display beneath. Alaska was pure white, then suddenly a stark brown cliff crashed down into the ocean.

Ice flows. The sort of thing you’d see in a movie. But to see them was breathtaking. Enormous ice sheets, flat as flat could be, covered the surface of the ocean, fissures separating them like cracks in a sidewalk.

Countless unknowns lay ahead. Would we marry? Would we find that we didn’t get along as well in person as online? Would I make friends in my new home? Where was I going to live? Would I be able to stand the awful heat and pollution of Manila? Or would I wake up in a few minutes and find myself alone in my bed—having dreamed this grand adventure?

At some point we passed over Russia—barren, endless snow. In half a day, I had journeyed a third around the globe, but the journey was not over. I had a ways to go before we would see each other again.

The plane touched down in Shanghai, and I started my seven-hour layover.

A friend of mine who’d been a missionary in China connected with me a local Chinese man, Yang, who was going to show me around Shanghai. I’d never been outside of an airport in China, though the country had always fascinated me. Or maybe I’ve just always been a sucker for Chinese food.

Either way, I’d struggled for weeks with risking an adventure outside the airport versus playing it safe within the confines of the international air travel machine. But people I had trust in my life had said, “On this trip, stillness and stagnation will be your enemy.” It would be a theme of the coming weeks.

And so I disembarked and was found by Yang. Hours without sleep? 20+.

I wanted to exchange money, but he said that he’d cover everything. So, with no local money and zero ability to communicate, I journeyed with a friend’s friend to see a Chinese megacity.

I don’t actually remember what time it was. It was night, and it was cold. I shivered in my light sweater (after all, you don’t pack a winter coat when heading to the Philippines). Yang took me on a bullet train to the fashionable downtown center where skyscrapers glowered down at us. One was the 3rd-tallest building on the planet. We went into a giant mall. International brands and escalators. We went up (again, 20+ hours no sleep, details are fuzzy) and we did the one thing I wanted to do in China—eat Chinese food.

With half an eye on the clock, we ascended one of those skyscrapers and looked out at the rivers of light spreading out to the horizon. We jogged to the bullet train only to find…we’d missed the last train back to the airport. Yang quickly summoned a taxi, and with a prayer, we headed for the airport.

Now, I’m no expert on public transportation, but I can tell you this for sure: a cab in Shanghai loses a race to a bullet train in Shanghai. Every time. Michelle was going to arrive at NAIA Airport to a great deal of disappointment. Half an hour after my flight’s departure, I finally got to the airport. Yang felt awful. I dashed through the gates.

There in the cold barrenness of a Chinese airport terminal, the grace of God smacked me once again. The flight had been delayed for two hours. My God kept a couple hundred people stranded in a Shanghai terminal for two hours because he valued my relationship with my love and wanted me to arrive to see her. That’s how much he loves me.

I half-slept on a cramped plane, disembarked, and found myself mostly alone in the passenger pickup area at 4 a.m. local time. Now, where was my girlfriend? Hours without sleep: 35?

I messaged Michelle and she replied with a cryptic message about being on her way, but then she went silent. Alone in the faint stink and the warm night air of Manila, I was left with my doubts. Was she really coming? What if this were some elaborate con? Of course, this wasn’t entirely unexpected. She’d been 45 minutes late to our first date, and I’d nearly returned to my hotel. And I still couldn’t help but wonder if I soon would wake up to the sound of one of my roommates playing Call of Duty in our three-room house.

And then, just as suddenly as she same into my life in the first place, there she was, leaping out of a van with balloons and a sign that said, “Welcome Home.”

My love, I left all my belongings and all my friends and family. I traveled over mountains and forests, over frozen islands of ice and barren Siberian wasteland. I nearly was stranded in Shanghai. All for this moment: to see you here, to be together with you, my first and only. And I’m not letting go.

The Lord did this for us. Don’t you see His hand?

He was the one who left the throne of heaven for his bride, leaping over mountains and bounding over hills. No barrier, no distance could keep him away from us. For him, there were no others—no girlfriends, no other bride. Always and forever, from eternity past, we were in his eyes as his one and only, his love, his bride. For us, he came and was incarnated among us and lived in the poverty and heat and hardship of our world. He suffered, he died, he redeemed, he betrothed. And now we wait what feels a lifetime but is in fact so brief. We wait for him to come again, bounding over hill and mountain, to take us away forever—not as immigrant to another earthly nation but to His eternal kingdom.

By |2021-08-18T20:12:58-07:00August 18th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

What’s up with me?

You may be wondering…


What’s up with Joey?


I apologize for my long absence. In a picture, here’s why I haven’t been posting anything new lately:



We had a baby! Isn’t she a cutie?


Anyways, book 4 of The Rift is in an advanced state, but until I have the time and money to really launch it well, it’s going to stay as a draft.

Some writing has been done on book 5.


At the moment, I’m on a baby/day job sabbatical until further notice. I do intend to finish up The Rift, but I don’t know exactly when that will be.


Thanks for you patience.




By |2019-12-27T21:07:59-08:00December 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on What’s up with me?

The True Meaning of Christmas

First of all, Merry Christmas! Yes, here in the Philippines we get it 16 hours earlier than those of you on the US West Coast. Yay for us.

So, with everyone talking about the “True Meaning of Christmas” this time of year, including a rather meta discussion of it by xkcd, I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

First, yes, I subscribe to the Charlie Brown theory of the true meaning of Christmas. Yeah, it’s about Jesus. No surprises there.

However, this year, I feel freer to do stupid celebratory things, like have my picture taken with Filipino Santa in the mall. Even though Santa has no real connection to the coming of Jesus, I’ve been realizing that not all our celebrations need to have symbolic relevance to the thing we are celebrating.

Generic celebration

For example, at a wedding, often we dance and we eat good food. Now, is dancing truly symbolic of the marriage? What about the banquet? Does that MEAN something relevant to the marriage?

Maybe a little, but that’s not why we dance and feast. We dance and feast because they are simply ways of celebrating. They are sort of generic celebratory actions. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, take all these secular-ish parts of the Christmas celebration like Rudolph, giving gifts, putting up a tree, and Santa. In one sense, these have little (or nothing) to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus. At the same time, the very fact that we are giving gifts and putting up decorations and running around in red fluffy suits shows that we are celebrating something. Let’s have that object of our celebration be Jesus, even if our customs lack symbolic value.

Put another way, giving gifts doesn’t have to symbolize that Jesus was born. We simply celebrate his birth by giving gifts.

Imbuing symbolic value

Now, an even better way to do this is to imbue symbolic value into our customs.

So, for those who don’t know this, most of our Christmas customs are rooted in ancient pagan holidays. Christmas is December 25th because the Catholic church wanted to replace the pagan holiday “Saturnalia” with a “Christian” holiday. Many of the customs such as gift giving come from Saturnalia. Others come from other pagan traditions celebrated at the winter solstice. Santa riding his sleigh, for example, looks suspiciously like Thor riding a similar sleigh. Thor the Germanic god, that is, not Chris Hemsworth.

However, that doesn’t stop us from taking these customs and attaching new symbolism to them.

So what if the Christmas tree is related to old pagan celebrations? We can still put up a tree and use it to celebrate the fact that Jesus was nailed to a tree for our sins.

So what if giving gifts was a Saturnalia thing? We can use it to celebrate that Jesus was God’s gift to us.

And Jesus was the light of the world. So put up some obnoxious flashing LEDs.

The church I attended as a kid had an annual tradition of decorating a Christmas tree during a service and explaining the symbolism of each part of the decorations. What a great idea.

You see, the story of creation is the story of God redeeming all things through Jesus.

He takes sinful and broken people and transforms them into sons and daughters. But they remain the same people, simply redeemed.

He is truly reconciling ALL things to himself.

Birth versus incarnation

My second big mindset shift this year has been from “birth” to “incarnation.”

Sometimes it bothers me that so much of Christmas is about the birth story of Jesus: shepherds, wise men, no room in the inn, manger. Because the birth story of Jesus doesn’t seem very relevant to my life.

Maybe I was talking to a Catholic friend a while back and it caused this shift, but now I see the real reason for the celebration as the incarnation of Jesus. The advent (literally: “coming”)

The birth simply means that he came.

The incarnation is WHY he came.

The birth is a bit isolated. It’s just the story of the circumstances how he came into the world.

The incarnation is full of meaning. God became a man and made his dwelling with us, and he bore our infirmities and pains.

Rather than saying, “Happy birthday Jesus,” I find myself saying, “Thank you Jesus for becoming one of us.”

The incarnation frees me up for more of the Bible to be about Christmas. For example, here’s a verse that is SUPER relevant to my life, has nothing to do with the birth, and has everything to do with the incarnation:

Hebrews 2:14-15: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

He became flesh and blood, like us, so that he could die and free us from the fear of death.

Fear of death? Very real problem. Addressed by the incarnation.

See, the incarnation includes not just the birth but the entire life of Jesus. It’s his miracles, his authority, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection.

That is cause for celebration.

So, Merry Christmas.

Eat good food. Celebrate the coming of Jesus with gifts and Jingle Bells and church services and by reading Luke 2. Celebrate with trees and lights and hymns and prayers. Just remember that in all your celebrations, you are celebrating this:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:17-18)

Don’t forget the people who are hurting and mourning this Christmas! Comfort them and be there for them to listen to them.

Merry Christmas from 88 degree, 62% humidity Manila.

By |2017-12-24T20:23:14-08:00December 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The True Meaning of Christmas

That One Time the Jeepneys Came Alive and Destroyed the Philippines – Chapter 1

Enjoy this sample of my new novella, That One Time the Jeepneys Came Alive and Destroyed the Philippines. 

Write me a comment of what you think.

Chapter 1: Tricyclist

Noli Reyes pulled his tricycle to the curb, the gentle thud-a-thud of the engine vibrating between his thighs.

“Hey, mate.” The white passenger had a funny sort of twang to his speech. “You—speak—English?”
Noli motioned to his sidecar. “Where to, Joe?”

The foreigner stepped into the sidecar, placing a briefcase beside him. “Old Makati. Greenbelt. Cheers.”

Makati? Why in the world would a tall, well-dressed foreigner like this be heading to the Makati Wasteland? Noli kicked his 60 cc engine into gear and roared down the road.

“By the way, why’d you call me Joe?” the man asked.

Noli had never really considered the question. White foreigners were Joe. They just were. As he sliced his tricycle through the gap between two taxis, Noli struggled to form an explanation in English. “Because you’re American, sir.”

“I’m Aussie!”

Noli frowned. “If you say so, sir.” He cut his engine, braked, and swerved to ride diagonally over a speed bump. The rusty sidecar rattled and shook.

The man clutched the roof, staring out the window with a look in his eyes as though he expected a bus to roll over them at any moment. “You probably want to know why I’m heading to the Makati Wasteland.”

“Sure, sir.”

“I work with Plumbers Without Borders. We’re working on getting water-saving, toilet paper-flushable toilets to everyone on earth.”

Flushing toilets…in Makati?

Noli had known a few NGO workers to pass through the Philippines. You really had to look after them. Most didn’t speak Tagalog and didn’t know how to get around Manila. They didn’t understand that the cost of a chicken skewer wasn’t really thirty pesos. In Manila, this guy was more helpless than a child.

“We just feel so sorry for you mates here,” the NGO Joe said. “Mechanomancer, jeepneys, famine, human sacrifice…we had to do something, you know?”

Noli drove up an on ramp for the Old EDSA Highway, his engine struggling with the incline. They passed a decaying billboard that had a shirtless man holding a can of tuna. Due to a hole in the billboard, now he was also headless.

Noli scratched his stubble. It wasn’t a beard, just scattered patches of hair. He was taller than most Filipinos, skin darkened by the sun to the color of coffee without enough creamer. A dirty shirt hung from his torso, and he bore the telltale lankiness of a man in his thirties who had neither wife nor mother to cook for him. “Thank you for coming, sir. Makati needs you, sir.”

“Yes, yes.” Was he actually wiping his eye with a handkerchief? About flushing toilets? This NGO Joe was going to have a very rough time in Anno Jeepney Philippines.

The ground leveled out, and Noli rolled to a stop behind a bus. The road was four lanes wide—which in Manila meant a mass of cars, vans, and busses between five and seven vehicles across. Traffic was at a complete stop. A dark cloud hung in the still air: the familiar tang of exhaust. This was really bad for 10 a.m. Across the divide, just a single car drove north. In the median between the two sides of the highway, a series of crumbled cement pillars once had supported the raised MRT railway but were now a monument to its demise.
Noli idled. He hated idling.

NGO Joe peeked out of the sidecar. “What is with this traffic?” He coughed. “I’m getting lung cancer. Can you get around? I’ll give a big tip. Look, no traffic on the other side!”

“Yes, sir.”

Noli pulled between a van and a bus—nearly removing his mirror in the process. With another zig and a couple zags, he reached a break in the median made for U-turns and used it to pull into the northbound lanes. And then he gunned his throttle.
NGO Joe resumed his terrified grip on the shaking sidecar frame. They had to be hitting nearly fifty kilometers per hour—something usually impossible on Old EDSA. Here and there, an apartment or grocery store still stood, but no skyscrapers, no malls. Big buildings like that hadn’t lasted long against the jeeplords. Most of what remained were the mismatched houses of squatters built amid growing piles of trash.

On the left, steel rebar stuck up from cement pillars like strange, leafless bamboo reaching for the sun. People would do that at times: try to offset the destruction with a sense of progress. No matter how grim things were, the Filipino spirit never surrendered. Even with rampaging jeeplords, the Philippines had not forgotten how to smile. Noli’s mom had used to say things like that: “Don’t focus on how bad today was. Tomorrow might be a wonderful day.”

He dodged a pothole, footprint of a particularly large jeeplord. Other motorcycles were also taking advantage of the empty lanes to go south.

“First time in Manila,” NGO Joe said. “I mean, I’ve seen pictures, but to be here, to see all this…” He removed a hand from the tricycle frame long enough to handkerchief his eyes again. “Words just can’t express it.”

Ahead, a few dozen motorcycles and tricycles were stopped in a large clump—all those who had, like Noli, taken advantage of the empty northbound lanes. He rolled up behind them, unsure what the problem was. Maybe an accident?

“Mate, why you stopping? Don’t forget the tip.”

Noli shook his head and weaved around the clump. This guy was in too much of a rush.

Ahead, he could see northbound cars in an uneven line, as though stopped at a traffic light. Except there was no signal. It was so weird. As he drove toward them and looked for another U-turn lane to get back to the southbound side, he saw the reason for the backup. A jeeplord lounged across the median, blocking two lanes on both sides.

A lesser jeeplord, thankfully: only five jeeps. Two formed the legs, one a torso, and two the arms. The hood of the torso jeepney stuck up just above the point where the arms attached, like a head. It was like a person without elbow or knee joints. The plate above the windshield on the head piece still bore the original name written by some now-deceased driver: Alaska. Noli slammed on his brakes, but he was already isolated in the no-man’s-land around the jeeplord. The torso section rotated toward Noli. If the window-panes had been eyes, it would have been looking straight at him.

“Sorry sir, I’ll drive fast now,” Noli said.

He plowed over the curb of the median, prompting swearing from NGO Joe at the awful bumps in a sidecar without shock absorbers. Here, the traffic was reversed: southbound empty, northbound waiting for the jeeplord to go away. Noli floored the throttle, passed the jeeplord, and quickly reached his top speed. He peeked over his shoulder, hoping against hope that—
Alaska stood in an upright position. At the sight of that form, Noli trembled in anger—an anger shared by all Filipinos for the destruction of their homeland. And anger for all that Noli personally had lost. But right now, there was no time for anger. He roared down the road as fast as his bike would carry him, his engine a heavy metal concert accompanied by the thundering drumbeat of his rattling sidecar. Hundreds waiting in northbound traffic stared at him. Maybe another car or motorcycle could have snuck by, but jeeplords always noticed Noli. Always.

“Hey mate, it’s bumpy in here. Watch it!”

“Sorry, sir,” Noli said, hugging his bike close in the hopes he might eke out a little more speed by cutting his wind resistance. Fat chance while tugging a sidecar.

NGO Joe finally peeked behind them and saw it—the jeeplord, running, just beginning to pick up speed. “This thing have a seatbelt?”
“Sorry, sir. No, sir.”

Noli looked around for an alleyway: something, anything to avoid the charging jeeplord. But he’d just passed onto some kind of bridge. It was at least a quarter kilometer to the other side. And—strange how the mind worked in these crisis moments—he realized where he was. He’d driven over this bridge a thousand times back before the jeepocalypse.

For a moment, he considered pressing the sidecar eject button, an illegal modification that was ubiquitous in Anno Jeepney Manila. And then he looked at that helpless NGO worker: pale-skinned, so tall he had to curl up to fit in the sidecar, wearing a clean polo shirt that was probably ironed. If he ejected NGO Joe, the jeeplord was just as likely to go after the sidecar as to chase its real target—Noli. No, he just couldn’t do that.

And then he saw it: a break in the guard railing on the opposite side. The twisted railing still hung over the empty space beside the bridge. This wasn’t going to be fun.

“Hold tight, sir.”

He swerved hard left, just in front of a bus—blaring horns—behind a truck—more blaring horns—and straight through the break in the railing. With a thump, they were airborne. For a moment, his body drifted weightless above the motorcycle. NGO Joe screamed. And in the midst of the terror, a funny thought came to him: at least I cleared up the traffic.

Some kind of bright blue fabric wrapped around them, blinding Noli for a moment. Great, they’d landed in a market.

Slam! They hit the ground, metal screeching against the pavement. They tore a clean hole through the blue tarp, revealing flies buzzing around raw meat on tables, chicken intestines roasting over coals, and stalls lined with old T-shirts. Noli swerved left to avoid a kid carrying ice cream and slammed on his brakes, unable to keep up that kind of speed in this crowd. He peeked back at the overpass, hoping, hoping, just maybe…

The jeeplord appeared above the bridge, windmilling its arms as it leaped through the air.

Noli swerved around another tricycle, smacking a balut table with his sidecar and sending eggs spraying in all directions. Then he heard it—a tap, tap, tap at his side. He peeked. The welding on his sidecar had come loose. One of the two steel bars holding it in place had snapped off. He didn’t have long. However, this market was along his old route, and even with all the changes, he knew this area better than the palms of his own hands. There was a church nearby. He rocketed toward it.

“Hey, hey, let me off!” NGO Joe yelled.

Noli gripped the motorcycle handles. “Sorry, sir, you will die, sir.”

Behind him, a huge crash signaled the jeeplord’s landing in the market. Noli passed a taxi, and the church came into view, a huge stone thing built by the Spanish. Statues of saints lined the outside of the building. He aimed his tricycle for one of the large doors on the side. All around him, people ran for the sanctuary.

The second bar snapped off. Noli swerved to avoid falling at the sudden shift in weight. His sidecar screeched to a stop. It would be so easy just to leave.

“No, too many have died because of me,” Noli whispered.

He leaned in hard and pulled a U-turn around a small truck, driving against traffic back to his sidecar. The jeeplord loomed large, stomping through the market, stall tarps wrapped around its feet and billowing in the wind like the hem of a wedding dress.

Noli arrived just as NGO Joe stumbled out of the sidecar. “Get on back, sir.”

NGO Joe pulled his briefcase out of the sidecar, leaned down, and stuck his face inches from Noli’s. “No, you idiot, you almost killed me. I’m walking.”

“Turn around, sir.”

The jeeplord towered over them, just a few steps away. NGO Joe jumped on the back of the bike and embraced Noli like a long-lost lover. There was no time for a U-turn back to the church. Noli sped toward the jeeplord.

This has been That Time the Jeepneys Came Alive and Destroyed the Philippines.

If you would like to get the whole book, just click the link below:

Get the Jeepocalypse

By |2017-12-26T00:16:08-08:00December 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on That One Time the Jeepneys Came Alive and Destroyed the Philippines – Chapter 1
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