Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Year's Resolution January Update!

New Year's resolutions have this odd ability to appear attractive around the month of December, but magically and suddenly, they turn out outrageously ugly in mid-January.

Earlier this month I shared my New Year's resolutions, and promised to share an update at the end of every month. So here is my update for the month of January!

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

Boy this is difficult. I downloaded an app that many iOS users probably know about, the aptly named Lose it! This app helps you keep track of your calorie intake, and tells you how many calories you need to consume in order to lose weight, according to your plan.

I also bought a scale to measure my weight. The first time I tried this anxiety inducing device it told me that I weighed 271 pounds! I was deeply disturbed. I knew I gained some pounds during the holiday season, but 20 pounds?! That seems quite an achievement.

So I started to count my calories and with the help of some good ol' fashioned food poisoning, I was able to lose 10 pounds in a week!

My last week in Lose it!

This week looks even better!
Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know I should do this, but maybe next year.

Ok ok, there is some slight improvement and I will try to keep this resolution, but lately I've been losing this battle. There is this huge mattress that I need to get rid of. It's occupying needed space in my room.

Oakland is no San Francisco, where I could throw out anything I wanted on the sidewalk and people would take care of it for me in a matter of hours. It's like they see the city as an immense, open mall-free-garage sale. I miss that.

Asking my landlord for suggestions on what to do with the mattress, she told me "go out at night, where no one can see you, and throw it out by the public garbage can around the corner. The garbage truck will take care of it for you".

"Umm...isn't that illegal?" I asked, to which she simply shrugged her shoulders and said "that's why I'm telling you, go out at night where no one can see you".

Yeah, not doing that. The big, useless mattress under my arms is a big giveaway.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum one post per week.

This is a resolution, I'm proud to say, that I've been able to keep up! I almost failed one week, where I was feeling pretty burned out, but as you can see, there has been at least one post every week, most weeks 2 posts. WooHoo!

That's it, see you next month!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Humility is Truth Part II - A Confession

Click here for part I.

In part I of my humility posts, I used the story of the washing of the feet as a framework to talk about humility.

In part II I want to share about my struggles with humility.

As many of our struggles do, this one started many years ago.

I grew up in a middle class home in Managua, Nicaragua. We lived in a relatively poor neighborhood. I lived in between two worlds, the world of middle class Managua, full of private schools, nannies and maids, and the world of my poor neighborhood,  full of improvised games on the streets,  shared meals and non stop pranks.

Because of my involvement in both of these worlds, I never really felt like I belonged to any of them.

I never was the popular kid. Never was good enough for sports, or the sorts of athletic feats that makes you popular in my country.

I was into classical music, art and technology.

Somehow knowing how to use Photoshop at the age of 12 and knowing the difference between a violin and a viola doesn't really make you the center of attention.

The mocking, the lack of connectedness, created a lot of resentment. I retreated into my hobbits.

One summer vacation I spent most of my time painting scenes of mountains, lakes and forests, creating my own little world, the decider of every fate at every brushstroke.

I may not be the best athlete, I thought, but I bet they don't know how to paint. What do they know about computers anyways?

My pride in my own little hobbits grew. My identity was found in them.

Eventually this pride slowly grew into cultural snobbery.

Yeah, they may mock me, but I'm better than them. I know more about the stuff that "matters". But I wish they knew how much better I am.

Even now as a follower of Jesus, I'm still struggling with this. I know my identity is found in Christ alone, but it is so easy to retreat into these cultural things to find comfort and self esteem.

But a metanoia is starting to occur in my mind, where culture, with all its fancies, style and ultimately, divisions, is starting to lose its taste.

And I believe that's where conversion starts.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" Romans 12: 2 NIV.

Culture is important, and has its important place in life. But culture is ultimately of this world, a construct of our hands and minds that in the end is perishable.

It is worth our time and attention, but not our lives.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Week in Ministry (01/20/13)

It is that time of the week again, where I muse about whatever happened this past week(s) in Ministry! So here are the top 5:

1. Can I officially say that I'm burned out? I don't think I'm as young as I used to be, or something is wrong with my energy levels, because I feel like I need a 2 week vacation! I need to consider this seriously, as my leader told me "the greatest enemy for a missionary is tiredness".

2. I enrolled to a theology class! There has been a burning desire in my heart to study theology, and while I study theology on my own, I feel that the academic setting and its demand is very helpful for me. I'm super excited about this! Classes start in February.

3. The choir keeps growing! The responsibilities for it are also growing. We led our first worship session this past Thursday, and it was ok for the most part. Some mistakes on my part, as I'm still a bit nervous with this role! Please pray for me!

4. The Honduran youth started asking us for a Bible study! They keep saying to us, "we should meet to study the Bible". The team is currently reviewing a Bible study curriculum, and we are very excited about the prospect of starting out one for the youth!

5. I have missed Wednesday night Soccer with the youth for far too long. I've been really tired and I've decided to take a couple of weeks off to recover. Please pray for energy so I can get back to it!

That's it for this week, see you next!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Humility is Truth Part I

"Humility is truth" said my spiritual director, as we talked about humility.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is the washing of the disciple's feet. We find it on John 13. We all know the story, and so I won't transcribe it here. I will, however, quote from it throughout this post.

"During Supper" (John 13:2a ESV). This supper is important because it was just before the Feast of the Passover. There is even some debate among theologians who suggest that this is the Passover meal.

Jesus and the Disciples were eating with their feet dirty. It was the custom of the day to wash the host's feet before the meal, because as they sat down on pillows around a round table, the feet would be too close to the meal.

Imagine! Dirty feet from walking on sandals all day close to a meal. Why didn't anyone think of washing their feet before eating?

Well this job was reserved to the lowest slaves in the household. We know from Luke 22:23 that the disciples were discussing who was the greatest among them during this time.

They knew that washing of the feet was essential in their culture before having a meal, but no one volunteered for the task because that would put them in the lowest position, culturally speaking.

So instead they chose to eat with their feet dirty!

Jesus knew that His hour had come, and wanted to take advantage of these precious last hours to teach something to His disciples. He chose Humility.

When Jesus decided to interrupt dinner to wash His disciple's feet, He did more than simply preach a sermon on humility. He did more than taking a commitment of Humility. He did more than a ceremony that is repeated annually.

What is Humility? For the longest time I thought that Humility was simply beating yourself down, accepting the "fact" that you are inferior to others. A low self esteem seemed like the sour medicine that I must take to force myself into humility.

I don't believe that anymore.

"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am" (John 13:13 ESV).

Jesus makes no apologies in this story of who He is. He didn't say nah guys, you have it all wrong, you think I'm all great and stuff, but I actually kinda suck. That would be ridiculous, in light of what He is.

And so it is ridiculous to beat ourselves down, in light of what we are in Christ, and mask this self violence with the pretty face of Humility.

Jesus is humble not in despite of what He is, but because of who He is.

Because He knows that "the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God" (John 13:3 ESV), He is able to assume the position of a slave in service.

His identity was not in how this world sees greatness in their different cultures, but it was based on God's love.

And God's love is self giving. How are we to love without serving?

If Jesus wasn't of God, He would be forced to support His identity on other things other than God. Maybe He would have chosen His culture, His social status, or the intellectual knowledge that He had.

But cultures, with their complex stratifications and social divisions, can force upon us rules of engagements that limit who we serve and how we serve. Just like the disciples were forced to not wash each other's feet because, in their culture, that would put them in a lower position than the rest.

Jesus, because He is not of this world, is replacing all of those rules with one: love one another. It's not who we love what's important, but simply to love.

And Love is self giving. And Humility is just an expression of that love, where you forget who you are in this world and simply give yourself in loving it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stop Eating out!

To put it plainly, I have been eating out too much.

This is no healthy for my stomach and wallet, and so it is time to make a change.

Given how one of my New Year's resolution is to achieve my ideal weight, and how I committed to a life of Simplicity, well there is no way that I can continue eating out as I do now.

Food that you usually get in restaurants is less healthy, more addicting, and more expensive. I have found that I'm beginning to be highly addictive to certain kinds of foods, and trying to get into a healthy, balanced diet has proven more difficult now than before.

I can't go back to the way it was before, and I'm beginning to be afraid that it will.

And so, it is time to cut off eating out, cold turkey.

But how does a person, who loves cooking, spend so much time eating out? This is super weird.

Thing is, I hate cooking for myself. I find it such chore.

I absolutely love cooking for somebody else, and it fills me with a lot of joy and excitement, but the fact that you spend up to an hour cooking a meal that you, and only you, will enjoy for just 15 minutes seems like a waste of time.

But I have no alternative. Today I make the commitment to not eat out for a whole month.

The only exception for this is if I'm going out with somebody else to grab a meal.

It takes a month to form a habit, and so I want to create the habit of cooking for myself.

Who knows, maybe by the end of the month I'll discover that I actually enjoy cooking for myself.

I would love for that to happen.

Photo Credit: Tax Credit.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This Week in Ministry (01/06/13)

After the necessary holiday hiatus, it is time to come back to This Week in Ministry...

1. I'm starting to appreciate how lucky I was, during my first year at InnerCHANGE, to have been in ministry full time. Working and doing ministry at the same time is taking a toll on me. I'm starting to feel tired and burned out, it's hard to enjoy the ministry during nights, for example, knowing that I have to get up at 4am the next morning.

2. Today (Sunday) we had our first choir rehearsal for the youth group! Apparently, I'm still leading the group. I feel like the "limbo" leader, since it hasn't been made official yet, but since there is no else to do it, I'm here to somehow fulfill this task. We finally got together a small group of people and started jamming some tunes, and we can't wait to see how this little choir will evolve!

3. I shared my vision before of helping to bridge the Central American community with the local parish, and I had a little taste of this not too long ago! So, I was part of this Christmas play where I was one of the wise men (the wisest of course, you know the one who came up with the whole idea of following a star) and I invited some of my Honduran friends and they agreed to come. It was a huge blessing having them there! They seemed to have a blast!

Behold! The wisest man ever!

4. Mr. Fahrenheit was released from prison! He seems very repentant and wants to find an honest job! This is no short of a miracle, since people in his situation are usually deported. Praise God for this!

5. This coming week we will have a somewhat late White Elephant gift exchange at the parish youth group, and I'm thinking of inviting my Honduran friends for this event. Maybe another opportunity to bring these two communities together? Please pray for this!

That's it for this week, see you next!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolutions!

Yeah, it's that time of the year again,  where we make promises and commitments that we hardly follow through.

We were supposed to lose weight, be more organized, better Christians, or whatever our resolutions were for 2012, and yet many of us failed to follow through most of these.

It is easy to be cynical about New Year's resolutions, but I believe that going through this exercise of self-examination is useful, even if the end result isn't what we hoped for. This exercise can help us look inwardly and set goals that can hopefully help us grow.

One recommendation on how to follow through your resolutions is to let as many people as possible know about your resolutions. People can hold you accountable for what you commit to, and the embarrassment of possible public failure can be used for motivation.

And so, I decided to not only make 3 New Year's resolution, but to also share it with all of you.

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

I have lost a lot of weight, more than 100 pounds actually. But I still haven't achieved my ideal weight, which is 220. Right now I weight around 250. The last 30 pounds can be the most stubborn, and the habits required to achieve this is nothing to scoff at. Those who have struggled with weight loss can tell you, this is no easy goal.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

Yes, this is an endless task, but it is time. I have struggled for long enough with this issue. I am able to keep my room clean for  a couple of weeks, and then, I conveniently "forget" about it. Not this year. At least that's my hope.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum of one post per week.

I always wanted to do this, and I'm even able to keep at it for a couple of months, but then I disappear for many months, and return as if nothing has happened. No "good to be back" or "sorry I've been gone for too long", just a simple "what's for dinner people?". Time to be responsible with this, even if it is a hobby.

There they are! I will also post an update of these resolutions at the end of each month. This will help me keep focused on my goals, instead of just forgetting about them in the frenetic dance of life.

As you can see, all of my goals are specific and the results are tangibly measured. I want to be more organized, but this goal is too broad, and so keeping my room is just one more step in being organized. I want to be more consistent, which again, would be a vague goal, but being consistent with my blog is more specific.

Most of us know that the more specific our goals, the more likely we are in following through them. Also, having something or someone that can keep you accountable is also helpful. And that's where I need you folks! Please keep me accountable!

Also, I would love to hear your New Year's resolution in the comment section below.

Photo Credit:simplyla.