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

“Because He Lives,” the worship song inspired by a blade of grass.

Bill and Gloria Gaither met when they both began teaching high school In Alexandria, Indiana. Bill had a background in Gospel music and Gloria had been an English major in college. They began meeting to share ideas about songs, started dating, and were married in 1962. It wasn’t long before their careers shifted from teaching to music full-time.

However, the 1960’s were chaotic and the major shifts in morals and values was upsetting to the Gaithers. They even began to wonder if God had decided to turn the world over to its own devices. 1969 was a particularly bleak season for Bill and Gloria. The “God is Dead” philosophy was spreading across the nation, Indiana experienced an extremely hard winter, Bill was struck with a severe case of mononucleosis, and Gloria experienced some painful false accusations from within her church family. In the midst of this pain and suffering, Gloria learned that she was pregnant. Even though, they were happy, they both wondered if it was wise to bring an innocent baby into such a hard world.

In early spring of that same year, Bill’s father George was visiting Bill and Gloria and called their attention to a small blade of grass that had pushed through the layers of dirt, rock, and concrete to reach the sunlight. That blade of grass had such a strong will to live that it inspired Gloria to write a song expressing the hope that was shaped by the resurrection of Jesus. She wrote these words:

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal, and forgive. He lived and died to buy my pardon; An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives…

How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives; But greater still, the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He lives...

And then one day, I’ll cross that river. I’ll fight life’s final war with pain, But then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives...

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Click here to check out a cool version of the song from Crowder, Johnnyswim, and Tori Kelly recorded for the Easter Service of Passion City Church. 

*Photo courtesy of Bruno Martins and Unsplash

Jesus Loves Me, the Hymn Written for a Novel

Jesus Loves Me, the hymn written for a novel. 

One of the first songs I learned as a child was Jesus Loves Me. I remember singing it with my mother in the car, in Sunday School, and in the worship service with my family. Years before I surrendered my life to the Lord, this song planted within me the truth that Jesus loved me. I never really thought much about the origin of the song until I came across it in William J. Reynold’s Companion to the Baptist Hymnal (1976).

Anna and Susan Warner grew up as sisters In New York near West Point Military Academy where they were known for leading student Bible studies. The sisters lived with their father, a lawyer, until his death. Afterward, they supported themselves through their writing. While Anna saw some success in writing novels and poetry collections, Susan became a best-selling novelist. In 1860, Anna contributed a hymn used in Susan’s novel Say and Seal. In the story, a little boy named Johnny Fax becomes ill to the point of death. Mr. John Linden, his Sunday school teacher, holds little Johnny in his arms, rocks him back and forth, and eventually sings the words to this new hymn:

Jesus loves me, this I know,

For the Bible tells me so; 

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! 

Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Two years after its publication in Say and Seal, William Bradbury composed a simple melody and refrain for the hymn and published it once again in Golden Shower of Sunday School Melodies. William J. Reynolds, in his history of the song, shares that the tune CHINA was given to the tune because missionaries serving there reported that it was a favorite of Chinese children.
Jesus Loves Me grew in popularity and became a song loved by millions of children and adults in churches and seminaries around the world. It is reported that after giving a series of lectures, renowned Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked to summarize his doctrine in a single sentence. He replied: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I don’t know much about Karl Barth and his teachings, but I must applaud him for his answer.

That is theology at its finest.

Click here to hear Whitney Houston sing “Jesus Loves Me.”

*Image Courtesy of Scott Rodgers and Unsplash

I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day – The Christmas Carol Inspired by Grief

In July of 1861, Fannie Elizabeth Appleton, the wife of the famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, tragically died. She had been sealing envelopes with hot wax which sparked a flame which caught her dress on fire. Henry tried to extinguish the flames, first with a rug and then with his own body, but Fannie had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning. Henry was also badly burned, so much that he was unable to attend his wife’s funeral. Because of his burns, he stopped shaving and grew a beard that became his trademark. Henry’s grief was so overwhelming that he believed he was going to end up in an asylum.

Two years later, in March of 1863, Henry’s 18 year old son Charles Appleton Longfellow secretly boarded a train in Cambridge, Massachusetts that was bound for Washington D.C. He enlisted in the Union Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry.

On December 1st of that same year, Henry was dining alone at his home when he received a telegram with the news that his son Charles had been severely wounded four days earlier in the battle of the Mine Run Campaign. Charley, as he was called, had been shot through the left shoulder. He avoided paralysis by less than an inch. Henry and his Charley’s younger brother Ernest traveled to Washington D.C. where they learned that, although serious, Charley’s wounds were not as serious as they had initially been told.

Three weeks later, on Christmas Day, 1863, Henry was overwhelmed by loss. He was a 57 year old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly killed or paralyzed as he fought for a country that was at war with itself. To capture the way he felt, Henry wrote a poem he titled I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. That day, he had heard the Christmas bells ringing in Cambridge and he had listened as people sang “peace on earth.” However, the world he observed was filled with injustice and violence that mocked the truthfulness of the optimistic outlook. The theme continues throughout the poem, finally leading the listener to a settlement of confident hope that even in the midst of bleak despair, that God is alive and faithful and that His righteousness will prevail.

Click here to hear an interesting arrangement of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Charlene Closshey.

*Image courtesy of Aaron Burden and Unsplash

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – the Christmas Carol Crafted from a Prayer

It was 1744 and Charles Wesley was frustrated. The impoverished world around him was filled with homeless people, orphaned children, and the Scroogelike indifference of Christians to the suffering of the lower class. Looking for inspiration, he searched the scriptures and came across the following words: “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will find this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:7). 

After reading the scripture, Wesley wrote the following prayer: “Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring.” Wesley soon adapted the prayer into a hymn he titled Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus which expressed a hope for the newborn Christ to eventually come again and set all things right. He published it in his own Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord hymnal.

Over a century later, the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon based around Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Spurgeon stated that he did so to “Illustrate the point that very few are ‘born king’ and that Jesus was the only one who had been born king without being a prince.” The sermon popularized the song and was most likely the reason it made its way into the hymnals of multiple denominations. 

Click here to hear Meredith Andrews sing Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

*Image courtesy of Omar Lopez and Unsplash

**This post and others like it can be found at www.johnjfrady.com

The 12 Days of Christmas – The Christmas Song with Surprising Symbolism

The 12 Days of Christmas is a fun song that people of all ages sing at Christmastime. Until recently, I thought it was simply about a lucky guy whose true love gave him lots of presents. However, there was a time when The 12 Days of Christmas was used as an undercover teaching tool for children in the Catholic Church.

In the 16th century, the Church of England was the only legal church in England. If Catholics were going to disciple their children in their faith and practice, they had to do so in secret. Even their lessons of doctrine and faith had to be reproduced by secret code. Even though The 12 Days of Christmas appears to be without purpose, it actually taught important doctrinal lessons. The 12 days marked the time between Christmas Day and Epiphany, when it is celebrated that the wise men visited Jesus in Bethlehem. The “true love” mentioned in the song is not speaking of a romantic love interest, but of the Lord’s love for each of us. Each day also has an undercover spiritual meaning. I’ll list them below as succinctly as possible:

1st Day of Christmas – The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, who gave his life for us, much as a mother partridge would do for her chicks. The pear tree also symbolizes the cross. 

2nd Day of Christmas – The two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Doves are symbols of peace and truth as the Bible conveys.

3rd Day of Christmas – The three French hens represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh presented to Jesus by the wise men. In the olden days, if a meal served three French hens, it was fit for a king. 

4th Day of Christmas – The four calling birds represent the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which cry out the story of Jesus for all to hear.

5th Day of Christmas – The five golden rings represent the five Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy which showed not only the fall of man but gave hope that a Savior would come and offer a pathway to salvation.

6th Day of Christmas – The six geese a-laying represent the six days of Creation. The eggs are a symbol of new life.

7th Day of Christmas – The Seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Romans 12:6-8 (Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Encouragement, Giving, Leadership, and Mercy). Children were often taught that when you follow the ways of the Lord, the gifts of the spirit moved in your life as easily as a swan swam on the water.

8th Day of Christmas – The Eight maids a-milking represent the common folk Jesus came to save who are follow the eight beatitudes (the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, and the righteous.)

9th Day of Christmas – The Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Dancing represented the joy of serving Christ.

10th Day of Christmas – The ten lords a-leaping represent the 10 Commandments because a lord was supposed to be just and noble.  

11th Day of Christmas – The eleven pipers piping represent the 12 Disciples of Jesus minus Judas who fell away. They led the way in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

12th Day of Christmas – The twelve drummers drumming represent the dozen elements found in the Apostles’ Creed (You can read it here.) The drum symbolized the daily practice and rhythm of spiritual disciplines. 

Fortunately, the time finally came in history when Catholicism was no longer a crime in England. However, by the time that happened, most people didn’t understand the undercover meanings behind the days and the gifts. Therefore, the song is most often thought of as a whimsical and fun Christmas song.

Click here to hear one of my favorite renditions of the 12 Days of Christmas by John Denver and the Muppets.

*Image courtesy of Chris Sowder and Unsplash.

**This post and others like it can be found at www.johnjfrady.com