When I was 15 years old, my buddy Jay “Schill-Dog” Schilling and I went to the track to see who could run two miles the quickest.
We had both decided to play football for our high school (what’s up Eagles from Kennedy in Richmond!) and one of the requirements was to run two miles under a certain time limit.
Let me pause here to say I am not trying to brag that I played football in high school. I was possibly the least skilled player on the team. I like to say I was small and I added to it by being slow.
I think there were two very clear reasons I made the team.
1) God has a sense of humor.
2) I could run…not fast…but for a long time.
So, unlike Jay who actually had football skills and was fast, I had to rely on my stamina. Since that was my one skill, it was a source of pride for me.
And so we went to the track and, as soon as we started, I took off and left him in the dust. I was about half a lap ahead of him and I was cruising. To be honest, I was shocked because, like I said, Jay was fast. But that day, I thought I owned the track.
Turns out the track owned me.
As I finished the first mile, I could see Jay catching up to me.
As I was slowing down, he seemed to be going faster.
And as he passed me with a few more laps to go, I realized what I did wrong.
I ran too fast too early.
I’ve never been accused of running too fast.
Too slow? Yes. But never too fast.
But this time, I ran too fast and left nothing for the end.
I used all my energy at the start of the race while he kept a steady pace and beat me by about 30 seconds (probably more but I’m writing this so let’s just say 30 seconds)
It didn’t matter that I started strong because my finish was weak.
It’s all about a strong finish.
Yesterday (May 29, 2006), my friend, Vic Ohashi finished strong.
Sure, he lost a two year battle with cancer.
But the fact that he left this Earth will not diminish the impact he had on my life and on so many others – especially in the past few years.
When I met Mr. Ohashi (Mr. O to me), I was a young collegian and he was the father of one of my best friends. I would have meals at their house and even spend the night occasionally (even when my friend wasn’t there). He and his wife treated me like I was family.
Mr. O grew up going to a church but had walked away far from God over the years.
We would have spiritual conversations occasionally but would usually end up talking about basketball.
And then the Summer of 1991 came and I made a commitment to pray for Mr. O and his family every day.
And at the end of that Summer, the family received an invitation in the mail to come check out a new church that was starting nearby.
South Bay Community Church.
I was excited to hear that the family decided to go. In no way am I taking any credit for this but I do believe God heard my prayers that Summer.
The whole family was excited about this church that Gary Shiohama was starting. It was small but it felt right to the Ohashi family.
They attended, they learned, they grew, they served and they were baptized.
And yesterday (May 29, 2006), Mr. O went home to be with the Lord.
Back to my running analogy…
Mr. O ran the race. And he wasn’t running it to win a trophy.
He ran strong because he knew that at the finish line was Heaven and he wanted everyone to know that they could get there too.
What was important to him was not money or fame or prestige.
What was important to him was his loved ones and where they would spend eternity.
And he spent his final months, weeks and days making sure they knew how to get to where he would be.
Now that is finishing strong.
March 2021
It was April 24, 1998. Michi and I had been married for 48 days.
We were celebrating my 28th birthday and we went to the zoo with Michi’s Kindergarten class.
Afterwards, we were going to the Giants game.
It was setting up to be a really good day.
And then something unforeseen happened.
A goat ate my wedding ring. Yes, you read that correctly.
A goat.
A baaaaaad goat.
Ate my wedding ring.
We were in the petting zoo area and I noticed my ring had slipped off. I searched high and low but no ring was to be found.
The zoo workers said that if the goat saw something shiny, they would have eaten it.
They said I was welcome to come back in a couple of days to see if it “appears.”
I told them I would pass when it, um, passes.
I was sad, shocked and disappointed that I no longer had my wedding ring.
And to top the day off, the Giants lost the game too.
It was not a good birthday by any standards.
But I chose to look on the bright side.
Instead of letting the goat incident eat me up (pun intended), I decided to see if there were any lessons I could learn – other than “Don’t let farm animals eat your ring.”
This is what I learned…
Things on this Earth will be lost.
They will gather dust. They will rust. They will be eaten by goats.
But God and His Word will stand the test of time.
He will not fade away. He will not grow old. He will not be lost.
And because of that, we can have confidence that no matter what happens, we can stand tall.
Even if a goat turns your most valuable possession into lunch.
February 2021
This is Wataru “Wat” Misaka. Wat played on the University of Utah basketball teams that won the NIT and NCAA Championships. He was also the first minority to play in the NBA (known as the BAA in 1947). And he did it as a Japanese American in 1947 - just a few years after World War 2 ended.
But I am not writing this because he played professional basketball. You see, the Wat I knew was already well past his playing days. But his impact on my life was still great.
Here are some things I encountered over the years in my friendship with him.
I met Wat almost 20 years ago when he and his wife drove to California from Utah to attend our 3 on 3 basketball tournament. He drove even though I offered to pay for airfare. He even brought me a University of Utah golf towel which I hang in my office. He came all this distance, paid his own way and brought me a gift to show appreciation. Appreciation for what? I don’t know. I didn't do anything.
He offered to sign a basketball to give away as a prize and Michi said she watched him spend a couple of minutes to sign it. Why so long? He wanted it to look good for whoever would receive it. While most celebrities take a few seconds to scribble a name, he gave so much care.
A few years later, I was asked to speak at his church in Utah. After service, I saw him waiting to talk to me. His first words to me were, “Hi Scott, I don't know if you remember me but my name is Wat.” Such a humble man who didn’t assume everyone should know who he was.
So a few years ago, Wat’s pastor shared with me that Wat wasn’t doing so well and he didn’t know if Wat had ever asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. Well, a little while later, my family happened to be driving through Utah so I called and asked if we could visit. So we stopped by and after some time catching up, I shared with Wat that Jesus loves Him and wants to have a relationship with Him. All he had to do was to ask Jesus to come into his life. And then Wat’s wife, Katie, says from the kitchen, “Wat accepted Christ last Christmas!” I said, “You did? Awesome!” So after a little while, we left and continued our road trip.
And then a year or so later, I asked if Wat would like to make a Play4Him video. We flew to Utah to meet with Wat and record his story. Sadly, by then, his memory was already fading and Wat could not recall many of the details I was hoping to record. He did recall winning the NCAA and NIT Championships and being drafted by the New York Knicks. He shared stories of teammates and coaches and even being offered a spot on the Harlem Globetrotters. But when I asked him about his relationship with Jesus, he could not remember many details. At this point, the video became secondary and I just wanted to make sure that Wat really had accepted Jesus into his life. He said he was not sure and respectfully declined any invitations that day.
I went home sad. Not because we didn’t make a video. But because I didn’t know if this wonderful man had ever made the one decision that would impact his eternity.
And then eight months later, I heard that he had passed away.
But I received a text from Wat’s daughter, Nancy, saying she had some news to share with me.
She said something amazing happened on what turned out to be Wat’s last day on Earth. Wat’s pastor, Brad, went to visit Wat and shared the Gospel. Brad prayed for Wat and Wat thanked Brad in a very heartfelt way. Soon, Wat’s neighbor came to visit and she said to Wat, “You look very calm.” Wat replied, “I am calm. I talked to Jesus today.” Nancy said her father never said things like that. Wat then added, "Well, He did the talking. He said that He was in control and that everything was going to be alright." Wat also said that he wasn’t going to be around much longer. He said the same thing to other visitors that day.
Later that night, Wat passed away peacefully in his sleep.
Wat lived a long and amazing life. And he is now enjoying his eternity in Heaven with Katie. And he is not there because of anything he did on the basketball court in 1947.
It’s because of what Jesus did 2000 years ago on the cross.
And the decision Wat made to accept His free gift.
Where you spend eternity is up to you. Jesus already did the difficult part.
Will you make the one decision that will guarantee you peace forever?
You can. What are you waiting for?
February 2021
If you’re a baseball fan, you may remember the MLB All Star game in 2007.
Ichiro Suzuki did something no one in the history of MLB had done.
He hit an inside the park homerun in an All-Star game.
But here is something you probably don’t know.
Before the game, someone told Ichiro that their friend was in the hospital fighting for his life.
And Ichiro gave them his All-Star game shirt and then hit the homerun.
Some may say that this sick person was the inspiration for his homerun.
I would say that. Do you know why?
Because I was that sick person.
While Ichiro was doing his thing in San Francisco that night, I was laying in a hospital bed in Oakland fighting for my life.
I watched that homerun on TV and, at that time, I had no idea it was for me.
Well, maybe it really wasn’t.
I like to think there is a chance he was thinking about me when he hit it.
I even thanked Ichiro a few years later when we finally met.
He simply said, “You’re welcome.”
I don’t know what was going through his mind when he hit that homerun.
His thoughts were probably more on baseball than on me.
So maybe it wasn’t so personal.
But there is something that we all should take very personal.
Not a homerun in an All-Star game.
Something much better.
Jesus dying on the cross…for you!
He purposely chose to die on the cross to save you.
That may not sound as exciting as an inside the park homerun.
But it is.
And it is very personal.
February 2021
This photos is me and some of the guys from our 30 year reunion. It was good catching up with old friends.
But let me be quite honest here. I was a knucklehead in high school.
Some might call me a knucklehead now.
Without boring you with all the details, let me share with you one story.
My senior year, I got highly sick. The disease? Senioritis.
I basically quit going to school the last quarter of high school.
Somehow I was able to still make it to third period (Journalism) because I was the Editor in Chief of the Eagle Eye, Otherwise, I was AWOL.
So when June came rolling by, I realized I should do something or else I wouldn’t graduate and maybe even lose my chance to attend UC Riverside.
I checked with my teachers and, to no one’s surprise, I was failing three classes.
With the help of friends and gracious teachers, I was able to pull all my “F” grades to “D.”
But the school had also lost one of my books and I had prove that I turned it in.
At that same time I saw a friend trying to get his yearbook back from some “visitors.” I didn't have time to help him as I was frantically trying to get everything in order to graduate. Regretfully, I chose to not help him and focused on me.
I found out two days later that he was shot…over a yearbook. Luckily, he survived.
So back to me trying to graduate…
At my school, for every two unexcused absences, a grade would be lowered.
I had about 10-20 unexcused absences in each class. Do the math.
I had to figure out how to clear all my unexcused absences.
So I went on the school computer. (The school secretaries were all very nice to me and they had compassion for me)
But I was still having a hard time when the Vice Principal walked by.
Mr. Gonzalez said, “Scott, what are you doing?”
I didn't know what kind of trouble I could get in for being on the school computer.
“Uh, well, uh…OK, Mr. Gonzalez. If I don't get these absences cleared, I won’t graduate.”
He looked at me, grabbed a piece of paper and wrote these words, “Please excuse Scott Shimada from all unexcused absences for the Spring Semester.”
And with that one note, I was free to enjoy graduation with the Class of 1988.
And with God’s grace, we are free to enjoy Heaven forever.
Grace is admitting you are not perfect and that you need God’s help.
Grace is receiving something even though you don’t deserve it.
And God is offering His grace to anyone who wants to receive it.
Even knuckleheads like me.
January 2021
Many years ago, I went on a trip with my parents to visit the homelands for the first time.
We spent two weeks in each country – first Korea and then Japan.
When our time was over, we had to catch a flight from Japan to Korea and then back to the U.S.
There was a two hour stop in Korea so there was plenty of time before our flight home.
But then our flight from Japan to Korea was delayed for two hours.
Stress and panic came as I worked out a way we could make that flight.
I talked to the agent at the gate to make sure we would leave as soon as possible.
I called the airline to let the flight in Korea know to wait for us.
And I talked to the flight attendants to make sure they let us off the plane first.
He replied, “Don’t worry. You will be fine.”
So I sat down and tried to relax. But I couldn't.
What if we miss our flight?
Will we have to stay another night in Korea?
Do we have to pay more money for another flight?
So I tossed and turned and when we finally landed in Korea, I ran to the door.
The flight attendant stopped me and told me that our flight had already left.
But I said, “You told me now to worry.”
He replied, “Yeah, don’t worry. Catch the next flight.”
At first, I thought that was really bad advice.
But actually, it was very wise.
No amount of worrying could have stopped my flight from taking off for California.
Sometimes, we worry about things that we have no control over.
What people are saying about us or how they will react or treat us.
All the anxiety, distress and agony did more damage than good.
If I was able to relax and not worry, I could have rested.
But instead, I was a big stress case.
What are things you worry about? School? Money? Career?
The biggest worry any of us should have is where we spend eternity.
It’s more than about a flight home. It’s about our eternal home.
There’s no bigger issue on earth than where you will spend eternity.
But you don’t have to stress about that one either.
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you can know real peace.
And you can take these words to be true.
“Don’t worry. You will be fine.”
How can you do that?
1) Realize that you are not perfect and you need God's forgiveness.
2) Know that Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man. And because of this, He bridges the gap between sinful man and perfect God.
3) Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. How? Ask Him to come into your life. Just talk with Him and surrender.
4) Learn more about Him. Read the Bible. Ask questions to your Christian friends. Ask God to help you. Join a good Bible following church (like ours - San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church). Join a small group.
5) Enjoy the peace and joy that only God can provide. You won't have to worry because your final destination will be secure!
December 2020
When I met Miles and Jena Burris, Miles had just finished his second season with the Oakland Raiders. I shared with him my idea for Play4Him and he said he wanted to help. Soon, we made a promotional video with Rick Quan (Bay Area sports anchor) and rookie Quarterback Derek Carr.
Things were moving along and Miles finished his third season with the Raiders where he was second on the team with 109 tackles (Charles Woodson had 113). But despite the stats, Miles was released from the team in 2015. And that’s where the heart of this article begins.
A few days after Miles was released by the Raiders, he texted me and asked if he could come over. He came by and we spent some time catching up and, as he left, he handed me an envelope. I knew it was a donation but how could I accept a donation from someone who just lost his job? (Note: NFL contracts are not 100% guaranteed) Miles assured me that he and Jena had prayed about it and wanted me to accept it. So I put the envelope down and walked Miles to his house (a few blocks away). The whole time we walked, Miles encouraged me and told me that he and Jena knew I was doing the right thing and that they knew my intentions were good and they wanted to support Play4Him. Honestly, I should have been the one encouraging him. Miles had just lost his job and was injured and had no guarantee that he would ever play in the NFL again. And he was encouraging me?
I walked home feeling unworthy of such encouragement but also inspired and uplifted knowing God had blessed me with such supportive friends. And then I got home and opened the envelope to find a very generous donation check and a letter encouraging me more. I called Miles and told him there was no way I could accept this amount but he again assured me that he and Jena wanted me to have it. I thanked him and then thanked God for allowing it to happen.
When I went to the bank to deposit the check, I asked for the balance.
The amount that was in there before the deposit?
One dollar and thirty seven cents.
At that moment, I heard God say to me, “I got your back. As long as I want you to share these videos, I will provide the funds and athletes. When I don’t, then it’s over. In the mean time, don’t worry.”
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
My faith is not in myself. My faith is not in Play4Him. My faith is not in those around me.
My faith is in Someone greater.
My faith is only in Jesus who created all things and is in control of all things.
Because of Him, I stepped out in faith and started a non-profit with no skills, no funds and no idea what I was getting myself into.
Because of Him, Miles and Jena were able to see beyond their current situation (in 2015) and know that God had their back as well.
And that’s why they wanted to give back some of what God had provided for them.
Even with no guarantee that Miles would ever play in the NFL again.
And he hasn’t.
Sure, he had a few tryouts but God had other plans for him.
These days, Miles can be found on a different football field. Playing linebacker for Clemson University in the Disney film Safety. You should check it out. If you do, you will not only see a great movie but now you’ll also know the back story of one of the stars.
Thank you Miles and Jena. Thank you for your friendship, your love and your support.
But most of all, thank you for living out your faith.
December 2020
Can you believe Christmas is here?
I love this time of year!
I’ll be honest, when I was young, I loved Christmas for one main reason.
The tradition in our family was that I could open one present on Christmas Eve.
I would plan this out for weeks.
Would I choose the one that made sounds like a box of LEGOs?
Maybe…but I might also try to find the Star Wars action figure.
That was trickier because it didn’t make any sounds.
Well, one year, I decided to be brave. I chose a box that made no sounds.
No clue as to what was inside.
I just knew it had to be something good!
After a week of going back and forth, I decided that was the one I would open.
So on Christmas Eve, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found…
A pack of underwear.
Tighty Whities.
Not even Super Hero Underoos (which I never ever had, desired or wore FYI)
As I sat there in shock, I looked over at my parents.
They smiled and did a “Gotcha!” look.
This was clearly a break in the laws of gift giving.
I said, “Mom, you’re not supposed to put underwear under the tree until the morning.”
I was not a happy camper. Clearly, underwear is not a Christmas gift.
I mean aren’t those something parents are required to buy you anyways?
I didn’t understand it back then, but I missed the real meaning of Christmas.
Christmas isn’t about the presents that are under the Christmas tree.
The real gift came 2000 years ago.
When God came in the form of a baby to be the Savior of the world.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
People try to do good things to be close to God.
But the truth is, God came down to us.
Because that is how much He loves us.
He left the comforts of Heaven to come to this crazy world.
And there is no better present than that.
Way better than underwear.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14
October 2020
One of my best memories was going to Lake Tahoe with my parents.
The three of us would hop in my dad’s 1974 Buick and we would go on vacation.
I don’t remember the name of the motel we always stayed at but it was our regular home away from home.
We got to know one other family fairly well.
Well enough to play with the two kids.
Well enough for me to sleep over in their room while my parents went out.
Well enough for the father to share with my dad why they were living in a motel.
He was hiding from the police because he robbed a bank.
Yes, my parents had a bank robber babysit their only child.
I found this out years later when I was in college.
So I asked my dad about this.
“Dad, that guy was wanted by the police? And you had him babysit me?”
My dad’s reply?
“Scott, he was wanted for bank robbery. Not for kidnapping.”
Oh, ok. I guess that’s Ok then. (insert rolling eyes emoji here)
In my dad’s eyes, he saw no problem since this man was a bank robber.
And since I was not a bank, there was nothing to worry about.
So apparently, my dad could put his trust in a bank robber.
I would think most people have a hard time trusting people.
Many people even have a hard time trusting God.
God…Creator of the universe.
God…the same God who made you and me.
God…the same One who chose to die on the cross because He loves us so much.
If anyone has a reputation for being trusted, it is Him.
He has proven over the years that He can be trusted.
The Bible is filled with stories of promises kept.
And I have seen Him work miracle after miracle in my own life.
So when we talk about who will take care of our eternity…
Or where we will spend the rest of our infinite days…
I put my trust in the only One who deserves to be trusted.
September 2020
In 2012, the NBA saw something no one expected.
Jeremy Lin set the basketball world on fire.
He was all over the internet, newspapers, magazines and TV.
Linsanity was born.
Two years earlier, he signed a rookie deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Jeremy and I had been messaging each other that Summer but we hadn’t met in person.
I thought I’d get a chance when I was invited to his press conference.
But it landed on the same day as my wife’s birthday.
I asked if they could change the day.
But I got the same response you are giving me now.
So, the season started and the Warriors asked if I could help organize an “Asian American Heritage Night.” The Clippers were in town and Jeremy was going to speak after the game to anyone who wanted to hear him.
As Jeremy walked onto the court after the game, I briefly introduced myself and he began addressing the crowd. When he was done, I asked if we could talk.
We walk towards the tunnel and the usher says to me, “You can’t go in there.”
Jeremy points to me and says, “He’s with me.”
I point to Jeremy and I say, “I’m with him.”
So there I am. Inside the tunnel. Where not everyone is allowed to be.
Was I there because I was so cool? Un, no.
Was it the way I looked? Obviously not.
I was only there because of one reason.
I was invited by Jeremy.
That’s it. I did nothing to deserve this other than ask.
We all have access to the greatest place ever.
And all you have to do is ask Jesus for His help.
And He will say, “This one is with me.”
Have you asked him yet?
It's not too late.
August 2020
Thankfully, I was able to take a few days off and stay at a friend’s cabin in Truckee.
Heading out on my journey on a Sunday with my family joining me the next day.
An hour into my trip and a scary realization hit me.
No!!!! I forgot the key at home.
Key! Hopefully, there is a “Hide-A-Key” at the cabin.
So I called my friend and asked him.
The response was, “Haha! No.”
So I looked at my options.
Unfortunate as it would be, should I drive an hour back home?
Keep driving to Truckee and hope a door is open?
Ask if he happens to have a key on him.
“Hey, you got a key on you?”
“I do, “ he said. “Come meet me in El Cerrito.”
Right on! I back tracked about half an hour to pick up the key.
And then he hits me with this statement.
“So…I am pretty sure these are the right keys…but they may not work.”
So I took my chances and drove up to Truckee with keys I wasn’t sure would get me into the cabin.
If those keys don’t work, it would be a long night. Possibly sleeping in my car until my family arrives the next day.
If those keys do work, I gain entrance to a warm place to sleep, running water and peace and quiet.
I prayed and headed up the mountain.
Many are traveling on a road not knowing what their eternal future holds.
Do we have the right “key” to enter Heaven?
Do we have what we need to enter an eternity of peace, safety and comfort?
Some may think the key is in how we live or what we do.
But all we have to do is ask for the key from the only One who has it.
He is the way because He died on the cross for us 2000 years ago.
And He wants you to be secure knowing you have the right key. Luckily, I had the right key and was able to get in the cabin.
You, however, don’t have to rely on luck.
Just Jesus.
March 2020
Real JOY.
Life is unpredictable. Many of us have had to cancel plans for the next month or so. Who knows when life will return to what we knew it as? Social distancing, closed schools, cancelled trips and empty restaurants. Grocery shopping has turned into some sort of sporting event.
But may I take a minute to share with you about something so important that I am ashamed it took a National crisis for me to post?
I did not grow up in the church. I didn't know the difference between Jesus Christ, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But when I was in high school, my cousin and some dear friends shared with me about the MOST IMPORTANT thing any of us can hear about on this earth. And that is the need for Jesus in our lives. I hope you keep reading because He is not some made up fictional character. Even atheists who have studied history will tell you that Jesus was a real person who lived on this Earth 2000 years ago. But He was more than that. He was man. But He was God also. God in human flesh. And He came for one reason - to save us. And that's why He chose to die on the cross for us. That's why He stayed on that cross even though it was painful and people mocked Him saying, "If you really are God, prove it and come off that cross!"
But 2000 years later we don't worship Him because He came off that cross. We worship Him because He STAYED on that cross! He stayed to finish what He started to do. To redeem the world and pay for all our sins.
If you were to give Him a chance and allow Him to come into your life, He will bless that decision.
Do you have to give up anything? Sure!
We give Him our fears and He offers comfort.
We give Him our anxieties and He brings us peace.
We give Him our pain and He gives us healing.
We give Him guilt and He responds with forgiveness.
We give up an eternity in hell and He gives us a forever in Heaven.
It took a national crisis for me to write this post. There is no shame in a national crisis helping you make a decision that will impact your eternity. You can make the one decision that will GUARANTEE YOU A FORVER IN PARADISE.
If you haven't done that yet, may I ask you? What are you waiting for? You have one life to make this decision. Once that life is over, it will be too late. Don't wait. Just ask Him to come into your life. And follow where He leads. You will not be disappointed. By giving Him a chance, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!
Feel free to call, text or PM me anytime.
This is serious. Much more serious than a virus.