Fighting For Survival

Today, I found myself in the midst of a battle. 

I was minding my own business, trying my best to provide for my family, 

When my adversary felt it was time to hinder my progress. 

At first, I was gentle and friendly, communicating with him that I wanted the best for both of us.

But he didn’t go for it.

Instead, his stubbornness grew.

I tried moving him to the left but he wouldn’t budge.

I tried moving him to the right to no avail. 

Suddenly, a crowd formed around us to watch the struggle.

Embarrassed by the attention, I redoubled my efforts to win the skirmish.

But it didn’t work and my frustration grew with every passing moment.

My fists soon developed minds of their own and they pounded the sides of my opponent.

When I could take it no longer, I grabbed my enemy and raised him over my head.

My strength multiplied as I yanked at his layers and finally ripped him in two. 

I dropped my foe to the ground and held on to the portion I had snatched away.

And then, following my neighbor’s example, I licked my thumb and rubbed it across the plastic bag I held in my hand as I stood in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

To my amazement, it finally opened.

Celebrating my victory, I placed my zucchini inside and continued my battle for food.

I repeated the process in the broccoli section.

I never learned this skill as a child. 

It wasn’t taught at home, at church, or at school, 

Yet, be forewarned good people,

For it is necessary for survival.

*Image courtesy of attentie-attentie.

Lose It App at the 12 week mark

I’ve been using the Lose It App for 12 weeks now. 

And…(Drumroll please)…

I’ve lost 22.2 lbs. 

I’m still pretty impressed with the process.

The app doesn’t judge me on what I eat, it simply tracks my caloric intake, my water consumption, my steps, other exercise (if I enter it), and my weight loss. It also encourages me to complete a 12 hour fast once a week. I typically do it from either 6pm to 6am or from 7pm to 7am.

I know, it sounds like a wimpy fast to just do it overnight. However, it’s been beneficial to me because I’ve found myself following that practice on at least half if not most of my nights now. 

And because fresh vegetables are lower in calories than most everything else I consume, I can eat more of them. This process has drawn me toward them in a subtle way.

Touche’ Lose It App people. Pretty clever of you.

I’ve got a long way to go, but this slow process of dropping weight has been good for me. I’m making a real lifestyle change and it feels good. 

Be watching for another update at 16 weeks.

*Image courtesy of Lose It

I Got The Tofu

Recently, I took my first bite of what I thought was a steamy plate of sliced chicken and vegetables in a savory Asian sauce. Suddenly, my gag reflexes began to engage. Something was incredibly wrong.

“Dear,” I said to my wife. “I think there may be something wrong with my chicken.”

“That’s not chicken,” she replied.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s tofu.” she answered with a smile. 

“Tofu!” I exclaimed. “Oh no! I’m not sure I’m ready for us to start eating tofu.”

For those of you who are unaware, tofu is a semi-food substance prepared by coagulating soy milk, then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying softness, and finally marinating it overnight in liquid sadness.

“The secret to eating tofu,” my wife explained, “Is to eat it with something else on your plate. You see, on its own, it has no taste.”

“That’s the truth!” I said.

“Try some more,” she said. “You might even start to like it.”

Instead, I shook my head and said, “I’m not sure I can eat tofu. It sounds like a condition you get from an old pair of sneakers.”

“Eat your dinner,” she replied.

“I’m not sure about this,” I said. “What if I get sick and people ask me what I have? I’ll have to say, ‘I’ve got the tofu.’ Then people are going to start saying, ‘There goes John. He never washes his feet and now he has tofu.’”

“Eat your dinner,” she said once again.  

“I’m expected to finish this?” I exclaimed.

The expression on her face indicated that I had no choice.

So, I carefully partnered every bite of tofu with vegetables and wiped the plate clean of the sauce which also masked the absence of taste and personal freedom.

So far, we haven’t eaten tofu again. But there’s a block of it in our refrigerator. I discovered it after thinking it was cream cheese for my bagel. 

Sigh…

*Image courtesy of Sherman Kwan.

Lose It App at the Eight Week Mark

Eight weeks ago, I realized I was fat. I’m not sure what happened. All I did was eat way too much consistently over several years and then boom, suddenly I’m fat. I knew I needed a lifestyle change with a directed plan. So I visited my friendly App store and downloaded the paid version of the Lose It App.  

Here’s how it works: 

  • First, I track my food intake. The app database has over 33 million foods. I either type in my food or scan its UPC barcode. If the food is not included in the app, I can add it using its real, or at least estimated, caloric information. 
  • Second, I stick to my calorie budget (For the most part). When I started my account, I entered my height, age, current weight, and goal weight. The app shared how long it will take for me to reach my goal weight IF I follow my personalized daily calorie budget. Currently, I’m scheduled to reach my goal weight by mid-March 2023. 
  • Third, I have the option to enter my daily exercise. When I exercise, not only am I helping myself raise my metabolism, but I earn extra calories which are added to my daily budget. Currently, my exercise of choice is walking. I’ve connected my steps app to my Lose It App. After 7500 steps during the day, I begin to earn extra calories. 

After 8 weeks using the Lose It App, I’ve lost 15 lbs. Not too shabby. 

The Lose It App’s biggest weakness is probably what I like about it. I can eat whatever I want as long as I enter my calories. As you can imagine, my wife is thrilled about that (Yeah, right). Even so, I’ve found that I tend to eat rather than drink my calories, drink more water, and make healthier choices simply because I have to enter what I eat. Also, if I make healthier choices, I can eat more (which I like).

Have you had success using Lose It or another weight loss program app? Let me know.

*Image courtesy of Volodomyr Hryshchenko and Unsplash

Altercation in Walmart

Ok, so I’ve officially become an old man.

If my graying hair and the mail I receive from AARP wondering why I haven’t taken advantage of their offer isn’t enough, I’m now adding fuel to the fire in my conversations.

So, I’m in Walmart and two young representatives from a tv and internet provider approach me. I don’t want to start anything so we’ll just call them GrAyT & T.

Our dialogue went something like what you’re about to read with only slight exaggeration:

Rep 1 – Hello, Sir.

Me – Hello, twelve year olds (Ok, so I didn’t really say how old I thought they were).

Rep 2 – May we ask which company currently provides your tv and internet service?

Me – Ok, sure. Cox. (I understand for some of you that automatically puts me in the old person category.

Rep 1 – That’s perfect.

Me – (Continues shopping) Great. See you later.

Rep 1 – Well, we actually were curious if you know how much your monthly payment is for these services.

Me – Yes, I do know.

(awkward pause)

Rep 2 – Would you mind telling us how much you pay?

Me – Yes, I would.

Rep 1 – Ok, well. Where do you live? I can look it up.

Me – (Heavy sigh) Fine. (I tell them my address. I’d write out my address here but I’m not prepared for all the fan mail I might receive. Just kidding).

Rep 2 – Sir, what would you say if I told you that our company can save you around 50% and can improve your service?

Me – I’d say that I’m upset because your company is about to dig up the front of my yard to put in their fancy smancy fiberoptics lines.

Rep 1 – Well, that is true, Sir. But the teams are repairing the damage by replanting the grass.

Me – I have Asian Jasmine growing in that section of my yard. Do you know how much work my wife and I had to do to get it growing right again after all the debris from Hurricane ida was stacked on it. And now you want me to go through all that again?

Rep 2 – But the service is so much better and cheaper. Wouldn’t you like to try it out?

Me – How can I try it? They haven’t even run the lines yet.

Rep 1 – Didn’t you just say you didn’t want them to run the lines?

Me – Yes, I did. If they can’t run the lines then I can’t try your service!

My Wife – (Interrupts) – Now, Honey, you need to leave these nice young people alone. You’re overexciting yourself. Goodbye, 12 years olds… (Ok, so she didn’t call them 12 year olds either).

I guess I am getting older. Who knows, maybe I should try that new grAy T & T service. To do so I’d have to cancel my front yard Asian Jasmine guarding stake out. I was going to build a bonfire and roast my food over all my AARP junk mail letters.

Maybe I’ll look into it after my nap…

*Image courtesy of Yerling Villalobos and Unsplash

My Father’s Day Confession

I have a confession to make. 

I watch people I don’t know. I watch them a lot. 

Dads especially catch my eye when they’re with their kids.

I watch them when they’re playing, working, laughing, and even when they’re frustrated.

I watch them and I wonder, “What must that be like?”

It used to make me angry (Ok sometimes it still does) when I read that “Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3 NLT) I mean, if those who have kids are truly experiencing an actual reward from the Lord, then I naturally assume that I must be a loser of the highest (or lowest) magnitude. 

I’ve absolutely hated Father’s Day because people walk up to me, smile, and practically shout, “Happy Father’s Day!” before they grimace and say “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that you’re not a father.” 

One Father’s Day, I was on vacation visiting a church when I was singled out from the pulpit in front of the congregation: “You all know John doesn’t have what it takes to make a baby but let’s pretend that he is by giving him a cheap gift.” Ok, so maybe that wasn’t exactly what they said, but it’s how I felt at the time.

One year, the daughter of a friend approached me on Father’s Day and innocently said, “My daddy is David. Mr. Bob is Ashleigh’s daddy. Whose daddy are you?”

That floored me.

I didn’t know what to say so I slapped her. (Not really)

“They (Children) are a reward from Him.”

I didn’t get a reward. I didn’t place. I wasn’t even allowed to race. I’m not sure what the problem is but I must be doing something wrong.

However, I refuse to allow myself to believe that anymore. 

When I look at my life, I’ve been blessed more than anyone I know. I have a cute wife, a nice home, and a life where I make a difference in the lives of thousands of people, if not more.

And yet, I still watch dads and I wonder, “What must that be like?”

And after all this time, I think I know.

It’s a blessing. With all of the frustrations, from my viewpoint, fatherhood is a reward.

So, I just wanted to say “Congratulations dads!

You have received an amazing gift, a reward from our Heavenly Father.”

And to those of you who are willing to embrace your reward, I honor you this weekend.

You are truly blessed beyond my comprehension! So do your best and make us proud! 

Be men of God willing to raise a generation to love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly! 

I promise to pray for you and try to relate as best I can. Let me know if I can help, seriously. And when we are old and gray(er) and all the children are gone, give me a call, send me a text, or do whatever people are doing then, and we’ll go to lunch or coffee, my treat. 

I’ll tell you how God has blessed me and then…

I’ll sit quietly and listen and you can tell me stories of what it was like.

Happy Father’s Day

*Image courtesy of Shane Rounce

One Minute of Silence

Some of my earliest memories involve cemeteries. I’m not talking about the country cemeteries where many of my relatives are buried. I’m also not talking about the above ground cemeteries of New Orleans surrounded by mausoleums and interstates. I’m talking about the cemeteries on various military bases with seemingly endless rows of whitewashed headstones marking the graves of men and women who had given their all in service to our country, to my country.

For many, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer. It’s a time for picnics, day trips, Blockbuster movies, or furniture sales. However, it means so much more than that, and it all started in a cemetery. In Charleston, South Carolina, during the Civil War, a few black residents organized a burial of deceased Union prisoners, built a fence around the site, and established a cemetery in their honor. On May 1, 1865, they held an event at the site, complete with a parade, singing, scripture reading, and a picnic.

Over the next several years, groups gathered at cemeteries to honor and “decorate” the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers who had given their lives in the Civil War. It’s been reported that General Ulysses S. Grant led an observance at Arlington National Cemetery on Many 30, 1873. Over 5,000 people attended to show respect as the orphaned children and widows of soldiers and sailors killed during the war placed flowers and small American flags on the graves of the honored deceased.

Originally known as “Decoration Day” because of the decorated graves and tombstones, Memorial is now celebrated on the last Monday of May. In 2000, the U.S. Congress and the President signed into law the National Moment of Remembrance Act. This encourages all Americans to pause at 3pm local time for one minute of silence. 

I’m going to do my best to observe that law this Memorial Day. And during that moment of silence, I’m going to remember the oceans of tombstones of my childhood and thank God for those who gave their lives for our country.

* Photo courtesy of Chad Stembridge

**Thanks, Dad, for serving in the U.S. Marines for 22 years.

I Guess I Really Am What I Eat

It was drilled into me as a child.

At school. At home. At church. On tv. Even in Comic books.

No matter where I went, someone was proclaiming, “You are what you eat” like they were the one who coined the phrase.

I’ll tell you a secret.

I never believed it. 

But you probably already knew that. You can look at me and tell.

So now, decades later, I hear it from my wife, health care professionals, and other mean people. Only now, they often follow the phrase with a question, “So, if you believe that phrase, then what does that make you?”

It drives me crazy when my wife asks me that question. I hold my head high, stick out my chest, and say, “Listen here, woman! I’ll be the one asking the questions around here! Now go and fix me something filled with sugar and gluten.”

I don’t really say that. I’m not stupid.

Instead, I smile sweetly and quote the food pyramid from the 1970’s: “Well Honey, I’m 4 servings of fruits and vegetables, 4 servings of grains, 3 servings of dairy, and 2 servings of meats.”

Ok, that doesn’t happen either.

Honestly, my head immediately hangs in shame, tears well up in my eyes, and I answer, “I’m a large pizza, a half gallon of ice cream, a bag of microwave popcorn, a gallon of soda, and one serving of broccoli.”

She shakes her head, takes a deep breath, and says, “John…”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupt with a smile. “Was that your broccoli?”

She has never laughed at that. 

Never.

So I’m going back to the truth of the lesson I learned as a child. 

I am what I eat.

My body will be made up of the foods I put into it. 

If I consume healthy foods and water, I will see the benefits of eating healthy foods and drinking water.

If I eat a lot of fat, greasy food, I will become a fat, greasy dude.

*Image Courtesy of Justus Menke

Resurrection Day – Our Blessed Day of Hope

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to Him, grasped His feet, and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” (Matthew 28:1-10).

Hope. We use that word a lot. We use it to express our preferences and dreams about the weather, our favorite sports team, our future vacation destinations, and what we will eat for lunch. Hope, in a typical conversation, expresses a wish or a desire while there is still uncertainty. While hope is a part of our daily vocabulary, it seems to be less often used in its biblical context. It’s been said that “Hope is the one thing that will get us through the darkest of times.”

Today we celebrate Easter, the day when Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection brings hope to us all. The late Emil Brunner once said, “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life.” As the human organism is dependent on a supply of oxygen, so humanity is dependent on its supply of hope. Yet today hopelessness and despair are everywhere. Peter, who himself was given to despair following his betrayal of the Lord, writes in a triumphant note, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

There is hope that mistakes and sins can be forgiven. There is hope that we can have joy, peace, assurance, and security in the midst of the despair of this age. There is hope that Jesus Christ is coming again soon – this is what is called in Scripture “the blessed hope.” There is hope that there will come a new heaven and a new earth, and that the Kingdom of God will reign and triumph. Our hope is not in our own ability, or in our goodness, or in our physical strength. Our hope is instilled in us by the resurrection of Christ.

Saturdays Are For Waiting

“The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, ‘Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while He was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent His disciples from coming and stealing His body and then telling everyone He was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.’ Pilate replied, ‘Take guards and secure it the best you can.’ So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.” (Matthew 27:62-66)

It’s Saturday. Jesus’ body lies silently in Joseph’s tomb. Much was spoken on Friday. Jesus will surprise the world on Sunday. But today is Saturday and Jesus is silent. God the Father is also silent. He made Himself known on Friday. He ripped the curtains of the temple from top to bottom. He opened the graves of dead and brought many back to life. He blocked the sun and allowed the darkness. He watched the sacrifice of His Son. His only Son. Yes, God was heard and known on Friday. And He will certainly act on Sunday. But it’s Saturday. So far, we hear nothing from Jesus. We hear nothing from God. There’s nothing to do but wait in the silence.

Most Easter sermons, devotions, articles and discussions skip Saturday altogether. Good Friday and Easter Sunday get all the attention. The crucifixion and the resurrection command our thoughts, as they should. But we can’t ignore Saturday, even if it is a silent Saturday. Because we all have our own silent Saturdays as well, those days between our own struggles and their solutions. Silent Saturdays are difficult. They torment us. We can’t help but wonder if God is mad at us. Did we somehow disappoint Him? He’s certainly doing a good job of giving us the silent treatment. Why doesn’t He speak? He knows what’s going on? He knows Jesus is in the tomb. He knows the issues we’re facing. He knows all about our failing careers, our disappointing marriages, and our financial disasters. So why is He silent? What are we supposed to do until He speaks?

Ironically, we do what Jesus did. We lie still. We stay silent. We trust God. We remember God’s promises. Jesus died knowing that “You will not abandon Me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.” (Acts 2:27 NIV) Jesus knew God would not leave Him alone in the grave. God will also not leave us alone with our struggles. His silence is not His absence. His inactivity is not His apathy. Silent Saturdays have their purpose. They let us feel the full force of God’s strength. If God had raised Jesus from the dead ten minutes after His death, would we appreciate the act? If God were to solve our problems as soon as they appear, would we be thankful for His strength?

It’s God’s business if He wants to insert a Saturday between our Good Fridays and our Easter Sundays. When we find ourselves in a silent Saturday, not knowing if an Easter Sunday is on the way, we must be strong and courageous. We must trust in Him who is always faithful. We must be patient.

Prayer: Lord, help us to wait on You and trust in You, even on our silent Saturdays, when we don’t know what You are doing next.  

Followup Activity –  Find a quiet place where you can be alone for a few moments. Make a list of issues of which you are waiting for the Lord to move. Pray over each item on your list, telling God you trust Him to work in the situation even if you can’t see Him move.

*Photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao