Thank You, Lord!

Today is probably one of the most important holidays in good ol’ U.S.A. A day of Thanksgiving for many blessings: good health, prosperity (a subjective term), divine protection – among the thousands of blessings I’ve enjoyed this year.

My grandchildren are both in good health. My kids and their spouses too. My wife and I are in relatively good health – and we feel we are more physically fit than last year. My wife and I are still employed even though we have been expecting to be laid off for a few years now, because our office is transitioning to employing the younger generation.

I’ve gone closer in my relationship with the God of Heaven, thanks to a two day stay in the hospital. In the end, it was not something that was really alarming, but every time I go to a hospital, I often wonder if it’s my last days or is God guiding me and my medical providers to make changes to my medication and/or diet.

My wife and I live a boring life. We stay home when we are not working, do a little chore in the house, tend to garden plants once a week, read, babysit, watch movies on TV, eat out (less often now). I’m content with a boring life and then a few days ago – I read that boring lifestyles is what make a marriage last. Oh, so that’s why we’ve been married for over three decades now. Just kidding. God guided us throughout our marriage in ways hard to explain. My wife is a good wife, phenomenal even so that helps.

I’ve faced some life challenges: family separation during navy deployments is one of the most stressful. Military life is stressful but the structure makes it easy to handle. Money was scarce and not until we went on a closer relationship with God that we figured out how to be wise financially.

Ever since I was a young child, I felt thankful for every little material thing I get – my first bell bottomed pants for example. For every little victory – finding a ride after walking four kilometers in flooded streets when I was a teenager. I always thanked God and always asked for help. When I got busier I made my prayers shorter and infrequent but I now try to pray and be thankful more.

Today is Thanksgiving Day, Lord – but You know I’m thankful to you for every second of my life!

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Vegetarian Journey

Over the years, and especially in the last decade, I’ve tried my best to improve my diet. It’s a hard process, sometimes deliberate and sometimes spur of the moment decision to try another diet. The objective is to live a healthy life every day for the rest of my life.

I’ve tried supplements and vitamins:  At one point some of them helped but once I gave them up slowly, I did not feel any difference. So I gave up on them except the occasional vitamins or supplements whenever the mood fits.

I’ve tried carbo-loading before – (when it was vogue in the 90s). The theory was by eating oodles of noodles, that food is converted into stored energy. I used to eat lots of pasta especially before a long bicycle ride to fuel every ride even though my rides are usually less than 30 miles. The bad news is that you gain more fat and weight doing this.

I’ve tried high protein diets where my carbo only came from vegetables. But I read months later that high protein diets is bad for the kidney if done for more than two weeks or so. I used this diet to lose 2-3 pounds in a few days. But I’m afraid to mess around with my kidney so I stopped.

I also did a “detox” consisting of eating select steamed vegetables (roasting caramelizes the sugar in the food) and adding nutritional supplements because it is a very low calorie process. I lost some weight but this was hard to do consistently. Years later, I read that most of the detox are done by our liver and kidneys already so it’s much better to just watch what I eat instead of subjecting myself to unnecessary suffering.

Over the years, I’ve been mulling some thought in my mind: how to eat healthier. Translation: how to incorporate more berries, fruits and vegetables to my diet and remove animal protein except maybe for fish, and the occasional eggs. We have to be great chefs to come up with really tasty recipes for vegetables and we are always time constraint due to work and family commitments.

Then one day, i watched a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. It struck a chord with me. Finally, I found a way to eat more veggies – by juicing. But then I did some research first and found out that juicing may take away the dietary fiber which is essential to cleaning our digestive system. Someone suggested to use a blender instead.

I got a new blender because my old one gets stuck when it encounters ice. To make a smoothie takes about 30-45 minutes. I did some research and found the Ninja.

My wife and I started blending vegetable (and fruits) three weeks ago. Here’s the results (for me):

Slept better.

Felt less tired even after driving almost an hour after work

Smoother food digestion process

My brain seems to work fine even in the late afternoon.

Eyes seem to see slightly clearer.

Felt less stress in stressful situations (such as heavy traffic).

I lost about three pounds and this time it feels like I’ll maintain my weight better

The difference is highly significant especially because I am no longer in my 30s. Any slight improvement in my well being is much welcome!

On the weekends, we eat regular food but we still avoid the unhealthy ones as much as we can.

The bigger challenge is getting consistent and staying on this healthy diet. But this time, it looks very doable.

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Less Baggage

Have you seen one of those movies where a few members of a royal family travels to a far place and they carry about 20 hard case luggage each? Yes, those were the times when a lot of fabric was used to create a single dress for the ladies and for the gentlemen, the usual attire are thick coats and jackets. At least they have servants to carry all those luggages upon arrival at the next castle.

Fast forward a few hundred years. Now we have fabrics that dry fast, very light, ultra durable and comfy all at the same time. What’s that got to do with baggage? you ask.

Let me share a short anecdote.

My wife and I experimented on some of our out of town trips in the last few years(only trips of over 400 miles counted) to fit the least amount of clothes, shoes and toiletries in the smallest possible luggage. Our justification for the experiment was to make our travel way easier. Here’s some good points on why we chose to have as little baggage as possible:

 

  •     Ease of carrying a light and small container
  •     Faster moving through airport security
  •     Easily fit in any car (rental or taxi)
  •     Uncomplicated choice of what to wear next
  •     Pay less for checked baggage

We were able to do it because we already have a few clothes that are made with modern fabric that are light and dry easily. We carried only a few and we washed them in the hotel shower and they dry within a few hours (depending on the humidity of the location). We carried the smallest sized toiletries and brought only one pair of shoes.

I highly recommend it to others because life gets easier when you don’t have to worry about too many things while on a journey. There are even travelers that live off from one medium size backpack for months in a foreign country. Sometimes, I wanted to do that kind of traveling – visit foreign places, stay in relatively inexpensive hotels and live off a backpack. But then, I wake up from my reverie, and I go, Naaaah, I’m too old for that.

In life, the less luggage we carry, the easier our lives become. Around my neighborhood, there are garages that are full of stuff, while their cars sit on the driveway. Boxes upon boxes of stuff sit inside the garage. The only one justified in doing that is the family with six kids.  I’ve seen people rent storage lockers for hundreds of dollars a month to keep more stuff. I mean, are they really going to use that stuff someday? Very unlikely.

In our life journey, when we eliminate excess emotional, mental and physical baggage, our lives become suddenly smoother, and happier. ASK yourself the following question, and since it’s only you that would know the answer, it pays to be completely honest.

What are:

  • the things you do that waste your time?
  • the things you buy or keep that waste your money?
  • the unnecessary activities that waste your time?
  • the tasks that waste your efforts?
  • the things you do that makes you unhealthy?

Once you have a list, work on eliminating a few. Just a couple will already make a significant dent in your life’s excess baggage. Eliminating more means more happiness and satisfaction. Pray to God for help (it’s really almost impossible to do it on our own).

Oftentimes, the burdens we carry are self-imposed and unnecessary. Let’s take back our lives. Live with less baggage.

 

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My Ideal Home

Sometimes my wife and I think of projects to do. One of them involves a plan to buy an empty lot a little further out from the city where we will build a very plain looking home, with the inside under built so we can finish it ourselves. Then we’ll till the land and do our own small scale organic farming. We also plan to raise some chickens and maybe sheep. My wife prefer sheep but I prefer goats because they are hardy and can eat weeds. We’ll have guard dogs to protect us and our farm animals.

Ideally, the house will sit on the higher elevation of the land, with a small stream at the bottom of the grassy meadow. We will probably dig a well so we can have our own water supply and attach solar panels so we can have electricity without depending on the grid.

The best part of living this dream is planting and harvesting our own vegetables and herbs and cooking our own produce. It’s almost a self sufficient lifestyle. We studied sewing so we might even end up doing our own drapery or patio covers or anything that a sewn fabric is needed. We will add colorful LED lights to trees and in fences so the place would have a festive atmosphere all year long.

Oh, it’s great to dream. All we need now is funding and lots of time.

Here’s the funny part. I grew up in a rural area just like I describe above. The house is a lot smaller than what we plan to have but it also sits at the higher elevation of several levels of terrace protecting us from any flooding from a stream below.

Yes, there were chickens roaming freely, except at night when they go to a wire enclosure to protect them from predators. We had dogs and geese giving instant alarm when any stranger is within a dozen yards of the fence. We didn’t raise any goat or sheep but we had hogs. Hogs are not fun at all. The aroma of the pigpen is not something I wish on anyone.

We had our own well which supplied water for us and for some of our neighbors. Years later, my father added a concrete water tank complete with an electric pump to pump water from the now enclosed well and deliver it to the house via gravity.

We had some plants:  citrus plants, coffee tree, corn at times, sweet potatoes, peanuts, several leafy veggies and squash galore. We had avocado, banana (not a tree) and papaya trees that oversupply us with fruits. We enjoyed eating our own harvest of fruits and vegetables.

We were off the power grid for at least several years Our area was still kilometers away from town center that it cost tons of money to have electrical connection. Television? I didn’t watch TV until I was in high school. I was glad because I was able to focus on my studies and reading dozens of books.

We finally had electricity in our village after about seven years. It was fun having it because now we could really light the inside of our home and the front and side yards at night. It looked festive at times even when it’s not the holidays.

So my life had come full circle – from living in a rather primitive lifestyle to moving to the city to work and take college classes. Then joining the Navy, living on a ship and shore installations.

I lived in a city environment almost all my navy career. It’s not too crowded back then but it’s still a city. Now I want to go back to a simple life – being in the country, enjoying what nature has to offer.

Oh, it’s great to dream. All we need now is funding and lotsa time.

 

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Preparar

Everyone knows what “preparar” means, right? If you don’t, then you’re not prepared. 

You know what I love about this past decade and a half? We have search engines on the web. I sit at home comfortably using my laptop to learn almost anything. Speaking of search engine, I use duckduckgo.com and startpage.com. It does not track your internet habits so you don’t suddenly get a pop up ad asking you to buy a BMW while you’re researching a mountain bike on the web.

Well, when I was young many, many moons ago – when Star Wars was still far, far away – I read an article about the 7 laws of success.  One of them is preparation. It really make sense because in our everyday lives – we always have to prepare for something minor such as going to work or a major thing like traveling to another state or country.

Let’s look at air travel as a good example for preparation. At a minimum, we have to purchase our air ticket, book a hotel and arrange for transportation. But we can go deeper in our preparation process. Some traveler do extensive research:  find the cheapest but practical air tickets, the cheapest but not grungy hotels, and find the most inexpensive transportation to the airport and at the destination.

Now for the nitpicky among us (or should I say, very detailed?), they check the weather on the destination and the route to the airport. Then the traffic in both departure and destination so they can plan accordingly (do I bring an umbrella? should I wear shorts?). They also have enough charge on their cell phones, a charger, and one of those gadgets that can charge a phone by itself. They estimate the time to get to the airport using the traffic and weather data and add 15 to 30 minutes, just in case.

Their luggages comes in two separate bags, both with complete change of clothes, shoes, etc. just in case the airline losses their luggage. To be sure, they check in only one bag so they have their other bag within eyesight. Inside the luggage are a pen, pad of paper, pencils, small knife, a multitool, masking tape, duct tape, a length of rope, rubber bands and a few butterfly clips (to close hotel drapes tightly). Did I mention they have energy bars, cookies, snack packs just in case the flight is delayed?

Of course, the last paragraph is kinda extreme, and I think very few people engage in that kind of detail (ahem, please don’t give me that look!). But in the preparation business, It’s good to be a bit more prepared than less (in my humble opinion). You can’t prepare for everything, of course, but it sure makes for a smooth journey. There’s nothing more awkward than being unprepared.

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Strong As Samson

This title is misleading on purpose because I personally don’t think there’s going to be another person as physically strong as Samson ever again. But there are many people as strong as Samson when it comes to their faith in God so if our topic is about spiritual relationships, then yes, millions of men and women are as strong as Samson.

A quick introduction:  Samson’s mother was visited by a “Messenger” from God stating that she will have a son and he will be raised as a Nazarite (which explains why he has long hair) and he will be tasked to deliver Israel from the oppressive Philistines.

Let me illustrate some of Samson’s actions that make any superhero movie appear lame:

A young lion attacked him in the vineyards of Timnah. He tore the lion in pieces (barehanded) as if its just a pesky insect.

He was always infatuated by women from the enemy’s camp, and he married one. One time during a dispute with the enemy he “struck down” thirty men.

At one point, he allowed himself to be tied up with thick ropes, but he just loosened it from his hands, and using a jawbone of an ass he “slew a thousand men”.

In Gaza, they tried to trap him inside the city walls by locking the gate. After midnight, he took the doors of the heavy gate with the two posts and the bar, put them on his shoulders and took it to the top of a hill in Hebron (about 37 miles away).

Even in death, he managed to kill 3,000 of his enemies using his hands to push two pillars apart bringing down the roof where his enemies where standing to watch him “entertain” them.

I don’t about you but I think we will never see anyone as strong as Samson again. He had some weaknesses that put him in serious trouble even with his supernatural strength. It’s no secret that his strength is God given as explained in the Book of Judges (Chapter 13 onwards).

Samson’s other strength is his faith in God. In the end, he realized he needed God  to defeat his enemy so he prayed that he die with them. He got another chance at reconciliation. He made mistakes maybe because he depended on his incredible strength but in the end, it was his faith that brought back his strength.

The lesson here is that no matter how much abilities we have, we still need a close relationship with God to be able to use those abilities for good. To have a close relationship, we need to call on Him – through prayers and study him through his Word (the Bible).

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Avoiding Temptation

One of the surest things in life is that we will be subjected to temptation. Is it a sin to be tempted? Nope. But it is a gateway to getting in serious trouble with God and our fellow human beings. There are so many kinds of temptation but it really falls into three types: Lust of the eyes, Lust of the Flesh and Pride of Life.

May I present some examples?

Lust of the eyes is when you look at a red Ferrari and you say I want that even though it will bankrupt your family. Lust of the Flesh is intense craving for the chocolate at the Ferrari dealership. Pride of Life is boastfully driving around in that red car with a “you should be jealous of me” attitude. Those are highly exaggerated example – but it helps drive the point.

The good thing is, there are ways to avoid temptation, and here’s a few of them:

Avoid Situations

If you know you will be tempted, avoid it. In driving for example, give way to speeding vehicles and avoid hogging the lane if your speed is 10 mph less than everyone else. Keep 5-10 car lengths away from the car in front of you. You’ll encounter less reckless drivers this way.  If someone cuts you off, do not react in an offensive manner.

Distance

One of best ways to avoid temptation is to keep our distance. For example, if you tend to overeat chocolate, avoid going to the chocolate counter on the Ferrari dealership.

A Friend Indeed

The right friends can help you choose a good path in life. Friends that give you constructive criticism are real friends. Avoid “yes men (or women)” or those who kiss up to you because they want favors. Avoid friends or colleagues with bad habits so you don’t start emulating them.

Accountability

I remember a pastor ask me someone once to go with him to a ministry in a foreign country. He said he just need someone to be around him for accountability. I thought that was a good technique in walking the straight and narrow path.

Troubled People

Avoid contact with people that seems to like trouble. Avoid obnoxious people that are legends in their own mind. Don’t think you can change bad people into good people because good people almost always turn bad instead.

Remove Alluring Things

If you have an object that may tempt you, get rid of it. Don’t worry about its cost. Having a clear conscience is better.

Be A Coward

Being a coward is good when it comes to temptation. By not acting on a bad decision, we tend to preserve the status quo and avoided hurt feelings for ourselves and others.

Procrastinate

One of the ways to avoid impulsive buying or instant gratification is to sleep on a decision. Some people even use the “30-day” rule. If they want something, they wait 30 days. If they still need it (not “want” it), then they buy it.

Prayers

This is the most powerful of all. God promised us that “you will not be tempted beyond your ability” (1 Corinthians 10:13). One of our favorite prayers states “and lead us not into temptation”. Temptation will be around – but we can flee from it.

I hope and pray that this post will be of help to all of you.

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