Posted by: rodalex87 | November 17, 2016

Healthy Holiday Tips

1. Be realistic.  Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays, instead try to maintain your current weight

2. Plan time for exercise.  Most YMCAs (where I work, haha) will be open EVERYDAY except Thanksgiving and Christmas!  No Y membership?  Enjoy a brisk walk to avoid gaining weight. 

3. Don’t skip meals.  Eat a light snack before a holiday party to prevent over-indulging.

4. Survey party buffets BEFORE filling your plate.  Skip your least favorite foods and include fruits and veggies.

5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.  Savor your favorite holiday treats.

6. Be careful w/ beverages.  Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar.

7. If you overeat one meal go light on the next.  No one gains weight from one piece of pie, but many gain weight from too much pie!

8. Feed someone else: serve a holiday meal to someone in need.

9. Avoid eating seconds.  Fill your plate with favorite foods but resist going back for more and overeating.

10. Bring your own healthy dish to a party and practice cooking healthier foods. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Posted by: rodalex87 | January 3, 2016

Love and Toy Story 3

Draft from 5 years ago, never clicked submit!

Aimless Search For Love: Volume 2

Everyone wants to be loved and valued, and when that love is rejected, bad things happen.  I saw this portrayed beautifully when I watched Toy Story 3 last summer.  Remember Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear?  He was the leader of the toys at Sunnyside Daycare, the place Andy’s toys were relocated to.  The story of how he got to Sunnyside reflects the effects of lost love.

Lots-o’Huggin Bear, aka Lotso, was once highly loved and valued by his owner, a little girl.  But then one day she accidentally lost him and he along with a few other toys set out to find their owner.  When Lotso returned to his owner’s house he saw that she had already replaced him with another toy.  Lotso was deeply saddened and overcome with feelings of rejection.

As all teddy bears are, Lotso was soft and freely expressed his emotions before this course of events.  But then his heart was broken and subsequently became harden.  Early in life, we’re all open to receiving love but once a tragedy happens in life and rejection of love occurs, our hearts become harden as a defense mechanism.  Like Lotso, we listen to the dark voice that welcomes bitterness and a need for revenge.

Lotso tells his companion Big Baby that they were abondoned by their owner and uses his size to take control of all sorts of toys through words and organized crime.  Lotso would tell all toys brought to Sunnyside, including the heroes of the movie Woody and Buzz, that their owners had abondoned them and the only way to survive in this mean world was to stay at Sunnyside and let him be their leader.  This was an attractive option because at Sunnyside their were kids that would play with the once thrown away toys.

Lotso learned to gain control to get the love and attention he no longer had from his old owner.  We too react to rejection and abondonment to control our world, become our own gods, so we can get what we really long for…love.  Sadly, we’re only living a lie and never capture what we’re after…an aimless search for love.

Posted by: rodalex87 | January 3, 2016

God does not have a Santa Claus Beard

Draft from 3 years ago, never clicked submit

Christians spend their life on Earth worshipping and obeying a deity they have never seen with their physical eyes.  But the hope is that one day God will return and completely reign on Earth.  in the Book of Revelation it is made clear that the ultimate reward for those who follow God will be to be with Him.  So what will He look like?

Pop culture has tried to create a visual of what God will look like.  I remember as a kid watching an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer meets God.  God’s face isn’t shown but we do see a VERY tall man with a beard that droops to his feet.  I’ve seen other similar images of God and also just the thought that God is some nebulous being with no real form but a booming voice.

To see God in heaven will be more than just seeing a nebulous being. I will see the fullness of love (1 John 4:8), and joy (Psalm 16:11).  What does that even look like?  I’m not sure, but I’m excited to find out!

I would like to ask that you take 3 minutes or so to read this account from the Bible’s Book of 1 Kings.  Then answer this one question: who is really in charge in times of oppression?

Chapter 11

26 Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. 27 And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king.Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father.28 The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. 29 And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country.30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did.

Chapter 12

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10 And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. 11 And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Posted by: rodalex87 | May 11, 2015

When Suicide Becomes an Option

“When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city.  He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father” 2 Samuel 17:23

What do we find our identity in?  What do we live for?  When we ask ourselves these questions we either get energized as we reflect on our purpose for living or we get discouraged if we have an empty answer.  To no longer exist is a the ultimate resolution for someone who views their life as utterly meaningless.  Now I do not presume to know the mindset of every person who has chosen to end their lives.  I also am sensitive to those that have lost a loved one through self-inflicted means.  I do however believe that when someone sees their life with no purpose suicide becomes an option.

The reign of the great King David is recorded in the Bible’s Book of 2 Samuel.  Within this story we learn about a counselor named Ahithophel.  The counselor was a great adviser for King David but was convinced by Absalom, the son of David, to leave the king and join Absalom in overthrowing David’s kingdom.  Ahithophel is recorded to have advised Absalom in having sexual relations with 10 of his father’s concubines on the roof for all of Israel to see (which fulfilled a prophecy from earlier in David’s life).  While Absalom longed to do anything to disrespect his father, his was also motivated to follow the advice because of Ahithophel’s reputation.

“Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom” 2 Samuel 16:23

Whatever Ahithophel said was followed.  Everyone listened to him.  Except once.  And that one time ended his life.

David had a friend named Hushai who was on a mission to save the King.  He did so by earning the trust of Absalom so much so that when Ahithophel advised to send an army of 12,000 to defeat King David, Absalom sough Hushai for a second opinion.  Hushai cleverly explained how that was a bad idea and blatantly said “the advise of Ahithophel is not good.”  Absalom listened to Hushai which leads us to the verse this post opened with: Ahithophel set his house in order and hanged himself.

Why would a man hang himself after not being listened to just one time?  Perhaps because his very identity was found in others following his counsel.  Consequently, he did not see a reason to live if he could not counsel.

Let us take heed and be careful not to find our identity in a reputation or position that can be taken from us in an instant.  Let us find purpose in our eternal significance (in the eyes of God) or we may find ourselves purposeless. And without purpose, suicide becomes an option.

“Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” 2 Peter 3:4, English Standard Version

Three things I must agree with as a black man of the Christian faith.  One, the current state of society is not what it ought to be. Two, there will not be universal justice until Jesus comes back and brings the kingdom of heaven to earth.  Three, I am to groan and grieve at the current condition while proceeding full of hope because of the promise of Jesus coming.

The Book of 2 Peter Chapter 3 addresses the concern of some Christians who have been persecuted because of their faith. He warns them about those that will try to challenge their faith by asking “Where is this Jesus that promised you salvation from this oppressive society (Rome ruled the Jews at the time)?”  Jesus had returned to heaven by this point and the perception was things had returned to the way they were.

I hear a similar cry in the African American community.  Rapper Lecrae said “I wish I could go tell [Dr. Martin Luther] King it was all a dream.”  I hear King’s daughter is advocating the necessity of a second non-violent civil rights movement.  I’ve also heard parents and future parents groan because they feel that they will have to raise their black boys to walk on eggshells around police because the color of their skin will eliminate their ability to have justice in the land of the free. Things seem to have returned to the way they were.

I however, was encouraged when reading Peter’s response, for it gives practical hope and clear direction for the followers of his time and for Christians today.

Repentance

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9

May this be a time where we all (including African Americans like myself) repent of our racial biases and seek God so we can see one another as God sees us.

How to Act

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” 2 Peter 3:11-12

As an African American man, may I conduct myself in a godly way and not in uncontrolled anger and bitterness, since I know one day there will be justice for all.

Thankful for Time

Peter closed the book of 2 Peter by saying we should “count the patience of the Lord as salvation” (v. 15).  Let’s be thankful that the unconscious racial tension has been brought to the forefront; allowing open conversations and progress towards a salvation from racial oppression that has reigned since the founding of this country.  Progress has been made, but there is much room for us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18; the strength of God and the knowledge of his will for us and this society).

Amen.

Posted by: rodalex87 | November 29, 2014

Another Black Man Thinking Through Ferguson

Trust in him at all times O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” Psalm 62:8, English Standard Version

Lord, I am processing my response to the Ferguson verdict and aftermath.  I feel compelled to not just sit back in passive anger but rather engage the larger issue of discrimination against black men by the justice system.  God, you care about justice and so should I.  I want to do something but don’t know what, so I begin by crying out to you.  You give wisdom and guidance.  You will show me how to respond in a way that is constructive and not destructive to my own people (i.e burning building in the predominately black part of town).  Through some initial interactions with peers, I believe there are at least four starting points: awareness, education, empathy and unified protesting.

Awareness

God, thank you for showing me through an Asian American friend that oftentimes those close to me of another race truly don’t understand the bottled up anger many black men walk with knowing they don’t get just treatment by those who are trained to ensure justice and peace for all.  May I be more vocal and engage in conversations outside of African-American circles to heighten awareness of how black men are unfortunately forced to think in the land of the free.  May more and more people break out of the safety of expressing anger only among other African-Americans and really express their anger cross-culturally in a constructive way.  I look at the gay rights movement of the past 30 years.  In the mid 80s the gay agenda was to make America AWARE of discrimination against homosexuals.  Started subtly through gay characters on TV, celebrities coming out, books and articles, etc.  Now, homosexual marriage is legal in many states.

Education

Ignorance is usually a negative, condemning word but it’s the appropriate one here.  Anyone who asks if the Michael Brown situation is an issue of race shows their ignorance of racial struggle.  Racism did not end in the 1960’s.  Racism did not end on Election Night November 2008.  Racism still exists and is alive.  There’s a need to teach the various ways racism still exists; particularly discussing the stereotypical preconceptions that cause policeman to shoot and kill black men assuming they are armed and dangerous.  I get it Darren Wilson, a black man is moving towards you aggressively.  Of course your preconceptions and fears will cause you to shoot repeatedly instead of a non-fatal alternative.

Empathy

Burning buildings is not the answer, but it clearly shows that people are hurting.  Many African Americans feel that they aren’t received what is rightfully theirs; equal rights in the justice system.  God, may there be more people that will listen to and cry with the American Americans.

Unified Protests

God, I admit I loved hearing that there were protests right in my part of the country.  Shutting down the Durham freeway, marches in the state capital where I reside and marches on Franklin Street.  I love it because it gives me hope that maybe we’ll be unified in this movement. We can’t look at these incidents as isolated if we want change.  We have to carry each other’s burdens and engage even if it doesn’t seem to affect our lives.  I do agree with my friend however that the problem will be long term unification.  Media will try to silence this issue in the next couple weeks and hope to not have to cover the story anymore.  Darren Wilson WILL live a normal life again free from death threats (see exhibit A, George Zimmerman). We could easily forget.  America rallies to make themselves feel good by helping poor people outside of the country, like Haiti.  But America isn’t traditionally the best in rallying to help the disenfranchised in their own country.  Dr King knew how to rally an entire people.  Now we argue over what it means to really be black.  We are divided based on shade of skin, education level, income, etc.  What will it take for us to join together again?  I don’t know, but I like what I’ve seen lately and it’s necessary to keep this alive and force change.

Posted by: rodalex87 | November 16, 2014

Guilt of Resting

Twitter post October 26: “We take vacation to relax and do nothing, isn’t that what wknds are for? #unplug #rest”

I posted this on twitter after purposefully spending 30 minutes on a Sunday doing absolutely nothing.  I was not watching NFL, I was not reading, meditating, etc.  I simply sat on my couch for 30 minutes.  Within one minute I felt guilty for not doing anything because I’m used to always working.  It is amazing that we can feel guilty for not doing anything. Thankfully, I quickly settled in and used the time to just enjoy the fact I was alive and could sit still.

Today, we can be instantly connected to what’s going on through social media.  I believe that we are being trained to always be engaged with what’s going on around us.  This spills over to our jobs and the way organizations are ran. Therefore, I value vacations because it’s an opportunity to get away and unplug and simply enjoy my wife and the city we’re visiting.  But it hit me while I was sitting there on my couch; aren’t I already given 2 days a week where I can take a pause from work and simply be?  I get two days back to back every week to not work.  Yet, I always find myself trying to find things to do.  But I want to join the counter cultural movement to unplug.  So instead of waiting for my next trip; I am going to learn how to be more than a worker and enjoy each opportunity already given to me for rest.

Posted by: rodalex87 | December 29, 2012

25 Year Old Black Man Learning How to Swim

In August an elderly volunteer at the YMCA where I work asked me if I knew how to swim.  After telling her that I had only a little experience in the pool she offered to get me instructions.  Seeing as my office is located right beside our pool, I thought it would be fitting for me to finally get in and learn!

I thought facing my fear of water would be the biggest lesson I’d learn from this experience.  BUT GOD would use my swimming instructions to teach me about His grace.  Each day I got in the pool I was being asked to do things that I had no prior experience doing.  As a result, I failed again and again….and again!  But my teacher was ever so gentle as she repeatedly gave simple instructions just to see me repeatedly fail to carry them out.  But there was much freedom even in my failure.  Since I knew that I was EXPECTED to mess up, I was able to just relax and just do my best, knowing my teacher would simply explain what I was doing wrong and how to correct my mistakes.

I think we have a misunderstanding of the grace of God.  Grace is not what we lean on when we occasionally do wrong.  Grace is knowing that ANY good we do is simply God working in and thru us.  Furthermore, grace gives us the freedom to wholeheartedly pursue the righteousness of God knowing that WHEN we mess up, our Teacher will gently instruct us how to correct our shortcomings.

So in the words of the fish on Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming” in the grace of God!

 

P.S

I am now a half way decent swimmer!

 

Posted by: rodalex87 | December 16, 2012

Connecticut Shooting and The Bible

The shooting in Connecticut has left us all with one burning question: WHY?  I find myself regularly checking CNN to learn the latest developments in the police search of clues to figure out what motivated Adam Larza to kill 26 people, most of them 6 and 7 years old.

I think before we try to piece everything together we should simply weep, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and as a world.  If you haven’t already been brought to tears over this incident, please take time to feel the pain of the parents of the dead children.  Imagine putting your kid’s clothes on one morning, giving them a kiss and saying “Have a good day, I’ll see you after school” having NO IDEA that it would be the last time you saw your kid alive.  NOTHING could have prepared these parents and this community for such a tragedy.

So first we weep.  After we weep over this incident, I think we should simply come to grips with the reality that we live in a broken world.  My faith in the Word of God compels me to believe that the world is filled with sin and people are capable of doing some of the most heinous things. Pastor Ron Lewis at King’s Park International Church in Durham recently defined sin as “irrational”.  I agree that events like the Sandy Hook shooting are episodes that can never be fully rationalized.  No matter how much we learn about the shooter’s motives over the next few days and weeks we can never come to a place where we will be able to fully say “Oh, now that makes sense”  Sin is irrational by definition; a complete disregard for everything righteous and good.

The bad news is that no matter what we try to do to promote peace there will always be turmoil on this Earth.  Sin exists in the hearts of man and this world is full of brokenness.  While I admire the President’s heartfelt speech and desire to see real action taken to prevent mass shootings, Obama cannot rid the human heart of sin and the propensity to act in such irrational ways.  Neither legislation nor social reform can completely wipe away wickedness.  We can promote peace in part, but complete peace on Earth will not come until the Last Day.  But the Last Day will come, and that’s the Good News.

The Good News is that one day there will be a kingdom established on Earth that will be free from sin and lawlessness.  The Prince of Peace will reign along with all those who choose to follow Him during their time on Earth.  The Scriptures say that all of creation is moaning for the return of the Creator and the freedom of sin and suffering (Romans 8:22-23).  There will always be sin in this lifetime, but we can rejoice in knowing that there will come a day where all sin and those who practice sin will perish.

So how should this affect our here and now?  Weep, acknowledge our world is broken, pray thy kingdom come, thy will be done, and hope for a better day: when the Messiah returns to put an end to sin and reigns in peace and righteousness.

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