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Act Two

Did your life seem to be right on track, and then it ran right off the rails?  Modern life is filled with pitfalls such as divorce, losing your job, sickness and the list goes on. It is filled with distractions that would like nothing more than to keep us from moving toward our goals.  We have to keep moving forward.

Forgiveness is something frequently discussed in terms of the people close to us, but we often forget to forgive the closest person of all: ourselves.

It’s good to look back on your life and acknowledge your past mistakes and learn from them.  It’s also important to forgive yourself for them so that you can move on with your life.

No good comes from putting your life are on pause to live in the past.  We cannot go back and change the things that have happened. What we can do is move on, refusing to repeat the same mistakes.

I can remember the night very vividly, yet it was already almost two years ago.  Fortune Gym, the gym in Hollywood where I had worked for six years, threw my wife and I a going away party.  As I looked around at all the people in attendance, it hit me hard how much I was going to miss them all and how much I was actually going to be missed.

One of the people at the party was a young man I had met at the gym about two years before.  We had chatted briefly and I had taught him a little Jiu Jitsu.  The next time I saw him he told me he had read my book.  He knew someone in the book, so we had a good laugh about it.

Over a two-year, period I trained with him often.  One day I had a talk with him about his line of “work.” He was selling large quantities of pills and marijuana.  I was worried about him because he had not yet been arrested for anything, but he was playing a dangerous game and it was bound to happen.  You commit crimes, you will get caught.

I told him that it may look good and it may seem like easy money, but in the end you will pay the price.  I could see he was unsure of what to do with his life, but I could also see that he took note of the message I was trying to get across.  A few weeks later he had an unrelated legal scare and was facing some serious problems.  The legal problems ended up going away, but I am pretty sure it helped guide him toward making better choices in life.

Although I haven’t seen him since the party, I speak to him about once a month on the phone.  Thanks to social media I can follow the things he is doing with his life. He opened a music studio, started managing talent and even started his own music label.  He got a chance to live his life differently, and he took it.

A second chance is always there if we are willing to sum up the courage it takes to change.  It is never easy giving up what is familiar no matter how wrong it is.

I left Brooklyn, New York and drove to JFK International Airport on a cold November morning.

I parked my car in long term parking and took the train into the terminal. I knew deep inside I was not coming back.  I had two suitcases and a laptop. I knew life was about to change for me, but I had no idea how much.  In that moment, I was just relieved for fresh start.

That was twelve years ago.  I still had many lessons to learn and places to live before I reached where I am today.  I had to learn to forgive myself, to forgive others and to accept God’s forgiveness and plan for my life. Leaving Brooklyn was only the beginning of my second chance.

I have been reading the Gospels this week.  It is clear to me that Jesus took those that were considered broken and gave them new purpose and everlasting life. He even forgave Peter after he denied him in public.  If we know someone who denies Christ, who are we to give up on them when Jesus did not give up?  Who are we to shun away people who may have not done the right thing in the past, if Jesus did not do that? How can we hold our past against ourselves when he does not?

America is the land of second acts, it is still the best place in the world to reinvent yourself.

I am over a decade into my second act, and I am still learning new lessons and moving forward every single day.

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Circumstance

There are many uncertain things in life, but there is one thing I have always been sure of: I am responsible for what happens to me.  In the late eighties, a friend gave me a book he found at a yard sale. It was, “A Man Thinketh,” by James Allen, written at the turn of the twentieth century.  It opened my eyes to how much our mind influences our lives.  I later bought another book by James Allen, “Man: King Of Mind, Body, and Circumstance.”

I cannot even begin to guess how many times I have read and re-read these books by James Allan over the years.  

One day last week there was a brief period where there was nobody in the gym but me.

I had the music up loud and I was moving around in the ring.  I was trying to shadow box, but something someone had said to me earlier kept going through my mind.

They had said I was lucky to be good at boxing and to be in shape.  

So as I was moving around the ring fighting my imaginary opponent I had that thought going through my head.  I chuckled a bit when I thought of James Allan’s books, because now that I am a Christian his books have a much deeper meaning. I used to read them and only take away what I wanted to use. He also writes a lot about being moral and honest and those were the parts I skipped over.

I am today where my actions and thoughts have placed me. There was no luck or chance involved.  My mindset, thoughts and work ethic determine the outcome of my days, weeks and years.  

My current circumstance is actually the culmination of thousands of seemingly unrelated small choices over the years.  I am not saying that I am defined by my past choices, because I know that good or bad they are just temporary.  They will change with the present day and depending on the decisions I make now, they will either put me closer to where I wish to be or set me back.

My boxing skills and fitness are not by chance.  Each day is an opportunity to push myself closer to my goals.  I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward.  Dreaming and setting lofty goals is important, but so is the day-to-day grind and hard work that will get you there.  God has given you the tools you need to accomplish the plan he has laid out for you, and it’s up to you to use those tools to the best of your ability.

Philippians 4:11-12

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

 

Structure

In my lifetime I have come across many people who wake up whenever they please, go to sleep whenever they feel like it and basically do whatever they want to do. Many people choose to live their lives with no structure.

I always had a bedtime and a wake-up time growing up.  My bed had to be made and I had to eat breakfast every morning.

When I went to military boarding school we had a set schedule for every day of the week. My experience there taught me that everyone was more efficient when they had a structured life.

It was while I was at military school that I learned to love waking up early, before the rest of the world is awake.  There is something special about the magic time before dawn where I find I can accomplish so much.  I used to wake up an hour before our official school wake up call, shower, get dressed and read. I liked not being rushed, so it worked for me.

I do the same today as I did then.  When I first moved to Illinois I had no place to be early, yet I still woke up before first light, walked my dog and got in a workout. I made a timetable for myself that I followed each day.  I would devote a set amount of time to writing, reading and getting other things done.  

I have found that when I have a routine there is no room for wasted time. I am happier, I accomplish all the things I plan to and I still have some flex time for fun.

I have planned out my years as far back as I can remember.  It is never so restricted and structured that I cannot change along the way, I just have a plan, basically a guide to where I would like to go that year and what I would like to accomplish.  

I have observed people who live without structure and it causes them anxiety and other problems. It often leads to wasted time and impedes them from reaching goals.

I wake up at the same time every day. If I feel tired during the day, the next day I go to sleep earlier.  I eat my meals as close to when I should during the day to keep my energy levels up.

It works and the best part of all this?  I never have to make excuses as to why I was not where I should have been.

I encourage you to lay out a plan and stick to it.  Start with small short term goals and see them through.  Commit to getting enough sleep and regular healthy meals and schedule out your days.  I’m sure you will see the benefits soon after you begin.  We must have faith, knowing that God has a plan for our lives and his timing is perfect.

These small commitments will help you when your bigger goals do not involve immediate gratification but take time.  We can all live a fruitful, fulfilling life when we have structure.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Psalm 68:6

God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

 

Live Life Proactively

It took me many years to realize that I didn’t always have to wait around for life to happen to me.

It was a mindset that kept me in places that I knew well. My mind adapted to whatever my surroundings were at the time. I rationalized everything that was going on around me as being part of my life.  In my time as a criminal, I was like a feather in the wind going wherever the wind took me. In those days I had one single goal in life, and that was to pull down cash.

Life began to change for me when I made a decision in 1996 to get out of the life I was leading. I was no longer going to just go where the wind blew me, I was making a path against the wind.

In 2005 when I had accomplished my return to a normal upstanding citizen, I set new goals for myself.  I wanted to write a book, and make money legally. It turns out that was a terrible blueprint for my life.

I wrote the book and I became a successful businessman.  Yet, I had a feeling that there had to be something more to life. I changed my plan again, deciding to pursue something I had a passion for instead of just working to make money.  I also decided I wanted to take a stab at becoming a successful Hollywood screenwriter.  So, I started training people at a gym and began working in Hollywood writing screenplays.

This one question kept coming up in my mind, what do I really want? I kept telling myself money and a good life.  I knew that was not a real answer, it was a copout.

No matter how my plan changed, I still felt like I was missing my purpose.  I did a lot of soul searching.  My motto had always been “I am the master of my fate,” and felt like if I could just steer myself in the right direction, all would be well.  It turns out that was the problem.  I had to let go of my control over my life and put my trust in God’s plan for me.   That might sound like giving up to some, but the truth is I had to work twice as hard once I decided not to always do what felt good to me, or what I wanted.

In Los Angeles, I had all the connections I could ever want.  In Illinois, I have few. I live in the country. Yet, I have discovered that I have everything I need right here, and the few people I am close to enrich my life daily.

I finally know without a doubt what I want from life. I want to do God’s will, have a great relationship with my wife, improve the lives of those I have the opportunity to train and write books.

To have a great relationship with my wife, I have to constantly work on my attitude and my behavior.  I tend to think I know everything, and the truth is I don’t.  

I wrote my second book, and I have learned a lot of patience in the editing and rewriting stages.  

I dropped the distractions of wanting money and fame, and have instead started living my life investing in people: the people I train and the relationships that are meaningful to me.

2 Corinthians 9:6

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 6:33

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Special People

So many wonderful people have come into my life. I was thinking back to the summers I spent as a child in Franklin, Tennessee and the memories I took away from that time. It was there I spent time with my grandmother, great aunts, and great uncles. I remember those times fondly and I remember the stories they told me. Those are great memories that will last the rest of my life.

Think about the family and friends who have impacted your life.  Some came and went, others are still in your life today.  Some friends make an impact for only a season, and as you both grow, you drift apart.

Another kind of friendship is the long term friend who we keep in touch with but only see infrequently because of life and distance.  Yet, every time you get together it is like no time has passed. Think about how much they have added to your life over the years.

I was reading The New York Daily News on Saturday and a headline caught my eye. I read it and I realized that one of the people in my former life was taking a plea deal for some of the things he did back when I knew him. My first thought was, “I am so glad I no longer have anything to do with those people.” Then I got angry at myself for ever getting involved with that life.

It came to me then, that it was all part of my life.  I had lessons to learn. I needed to be around that person’s cousin so that I would see the path I was on would only lead to a dead end. My being around them was a valuable lesson and without it I would not have the life I have today.  I would not be the same person with experiences that I can use now.  It’s not a waste, God can use my bad past for good.

Even a bad encounter in your life can be used for good.

The special people in our lives are important in forming our values and personalities. Enjoy the time spent with them and let them know how much you value them.

I have had those close to me pass away and today I no longer grieve their passing. I think about all the experiences I shared with them. I know I was lucky to have been able to have them in my life.  Choosing our circle of friends carefully today is very important to our future.  

The journey of life is long and there will be many who come and go. When we grow, we must know when it is time to let go.  We can keep fighting it or make it easy.  Remember, you never know when you might cross paths again along the way. I believe that when we encounter someone it is because God has a purpose for it in our lives at that time.

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 13:20

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

 

My Fitness Journey

I first started taking fitness seriously in 2005.  That was when I had finally had enough of not being fit.

Our creator provided each of us with a billion dollar machine when we were born, yet most of us treat it like it is an old junker.  I know this to be true of me – I have been through my share of ups and downs over the years with my body.

I have expressed my love for the martial arts a number of times before.  It was through Jiu Jitsu that it had become clear that I needed to make drastic changes or I would not be able to participate any longer.  At the time I was getting beaten, hurt and felt like crap all the time.  I had always lifted weights and did some form of cardio, but I lacked in either the diet or conditioning part of fitness. I was unwilling to step out of my comfort zone and take in new methods of approaching fitness.

I was stuck in the 1980’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding workout mode, which would be fine if I wanted to be a bodybuilder, but I wanted to have an athlete’s build.  I am short, stocky, bulky and look puffy if I pound iron like Arnold.

It just so happens that at the time I was about to start investing in my well-being a lot of information was becoming available on the interweb. I spent a lot of time reading material, researching everything I could find on training, strength, conditioning, and diet. I had to use my B.S. filter a lot because while there is a lot of great information, there is also a lot of bad.

It was then that I purchased my first kettlebell. It was not what I was used to at all, it was hard to grip, awkward and unwieldy.   

I am sure all of you have heard this statement or might have even spoken it. “I hate cardio.”  I have said those words many times.  I did, however, walk and/or hike every day depending on where I was in the world.  It is a good base, but not what I need for endurance or the energy burn of Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing.

And so, I became one of the zombies you will see at any big box gym in every city, town or village on a cardio machine: reading, watching tv, talking etc. I would spend hours on them and still I was getting smoked during practice because you cannot get functional cardio doing a repetitive session on a machine.

It was then I met Krzysztof Soszyński who was a UFC fighter at the time. He started training everyone at Reign Training Center in his KSOS system which was circuit training that mimics what we experience in an MMA fight.  It opened my eyes to unconventional methods of training.

The weight came off me and I really started to have a lot of endurance.  My cardio was through the roof.  I learned a lot from him while he was at Reign Training Center. When he was away at a fight or doing promo for the UFC I taught his classes using his methods. I had taught privates before when I was at Joker’s Wild, but I never took any money. One day after class a woman asked me if I would hold boxing mitts for her, and when we were finished she handed me some cash.  It was at that point I became a trainer.

I was training Jiu Jitsu under Lars Wallin in Los Angeles at LBS 4 LBS Boxing at night a couple times a week.  If I had a day off or I was in town early I would stop by and see Lars.  He is also a personal trainer who trains a lot of high-end clients. Lars also worked with his cousin Magnus Samuelsson who was a long time competitor and winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition.  Lars had a lot of really great training methods that I was able to learn and utilize.  Lars was always able to smash guys who were much bigger than him with his Jiu Jitsu, so I was willing to pay attention.

My friend Wade who trained with Lars and I told me to meet a guy named Justin Fortune.  It was my time spent at Fortune Gym where I was really able to put things together.  I learned the mental aspect of boxing and combat sports from both Justin and the legendary boxing trainer Macka Foley.  The first time Macka told me he was going to work on my mental boxing skills, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just hit mitts and throw punches.” It did not take long for me to realize how valuable Macka’s lesson were to me and anyone who I would go on to teach.  

It was Justin Fortune who taught me how to work with fighters and how to pull the best performance out of others. Justin was a former powerlifting champion from Australia who became a heavyweight boxing contender. After he retired from boxing he worked with Freddie Roach as a strength and conditioning coach for many champion fighters.

I was able to watch Justin train boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, actors and regular people for over six years. I asked him many questions and sometimes he would just give me advice. There are a lot of trainers who went to school or took a class, but there are very few who take the time or have the opportunity to learn under the direction of current working top tier trainers. This experience opened my eyes.

I had been in pretty good shape for several years at this point, but I only pushed myself to peak shape if I was going to fight or compete. Afterwards, I would binge on whatever I felt I’d missed.  One time, after a fight, I ate a gigantic blueberry tart from an Armenian bakery all by myself.  Candy corn was another weakness, and trust me, when it hit the shelves every fall I was there stocking up.

It was not long after I became a Christian and I was praying for guidance that I began to see things more clearly. I felt that I needed to be more in control of my behavior and take better care of my body. I started cutting things out of my life that did not fit into the new life path I was on.

Two years ago I cut out sugar in many forms especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup (candy corn!). Alcohol was no problem for me to cut out, because I did not drink. It is amazing how much better I felt once so much sugar was out of my life. I had never realized the ups and downs of my emotions were so driven by food until that point. For me, there is no such thing as going on a diet, I had to make a lifestyle change.

Thinking back on all the people I have trained alongside over the years, including the world champions in various sports, they all have something in common: they all put in the work, day in and day out. They stick to the plan and make no excuses.

I love to hear the success stories of people I have trained with and trained over the years. Recently, a Hollywood director friend named Christian sent me a picture of all the clothes he was donating because he has lost so much weight.  

I then heard from a guy I had a talk with one night many years ago in the parking lot of LBS 4 LBS named Kenneth. Kenneth was over three hundred pounds at the time. I told him about my journey up to that point and I encouraged him to keep up the work.  We would see each other at the gym over the years and I would always speak to him.  He was shrinking fast and he even became a personal trainer!  When I moved to Illinois he started a website www.fatboyshrink.com and I still keep in touch today.

All of these people and experiences have really energized me to pursue my own fitness journey.  I studied and became certified as a personal trainer.  I spoke to coaches and researched as much as I could.  I began to refine and expand my training methods.  I found out about Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s and I went to Indiana to get trained so I could start that program at my own gym.

I pray every day for guidance, that the right doors will keep opening to lead me to where I’m supposed to be.  I have noticed that there are very few options for people over the age of forty when it comes to fitness.  They can go to a big chain gym and hit the machines.  They can get a trainer who is in their twenties with very little life or work experience.  Or they can go the discount rate at the YMCA.

When I began training in Jiu Jitsu I noticed that older people would want to train, but without the physical conditioning, they would always become injured. So, when I trained clients I would focus on their strength, mobility, and balance together with their Jiu Jitsu skills training.

That is where I am today. Fitness does not have to be an endless session of weights or cardio machines. I want to encourage everyone, regardless of age or diagnosis to find a sport they love and work on it.  Commit yourself to taking care of the body God has given you.  Once your mindset is right, and your body is strong, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.  We have a saying in our Rock Steady Boxing class, “Sharp Minds, Strong Bodies, Fight Back.”   This is my fitness journey and I feel like it has only just begun.  Where will yours take you? You too can fight back against the chains holding you down.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Hebrews 12:11-12

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.

 

A Change Of Pace

It has been two years since my wife and I made the decision to relocate to the Midwest from Southern California. It was actually a decision that came fairly easy, because we were both ready for change. We thought about it, prayed about it, and things fell into place quickly.

We set the move date, loaded a moving truck up with our belongings and sent it on its way across the country.

We arrived at the farm on July 1, 2015.  It was the first time I had ever seen it – the place where my wife grew up. A farm that had been in her family for over a hundred years.

I had two things on my mind. The first was to unwind after the long drive, and the second was finding a gym where I could train martial arts. A friend of my wife’s family stopped by that day and invited me over to his farm the following weekend to help butcher broiler hens.  I was trained on the spot and soon our freezer was full of delicious farm raised chickens.  I hadn’t realized that you raise some chickens to eat, and another kind to lay eggs.  There was so much more to learn.

After googling local MMA and Jiu Jitsu gyms, I found one nearby and headed over to check it out. That day was the first time I thought maybe I had made a mistake moving to the Midwest.

I introduced myself to the man who ran the gym, and asked if I could train.  He invited me back for a Jiu Jitsu session later that night.  When we returned, he was extremely rude to both my wife and I.  I didn’t realize what had changed in the past few hours until he confronted me about being “a rat,” and told me that I wasn’t welcome in his gym.  This was after he made me wait an hour to speak with him.  Apparently, he had googled me and felt I wasn’t worthy of his gym based on my past.  What a welcome to my “fresh start.

It turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.  It forced me to rethink about the things that were really important. It took me out of my comfort zone, but looking back now I can see how much I was forced to grow.  

The next week I found a great gym with talented fighters who were not interested in my past, but in how I trained as a fighter.  They have always treated me well and I like the guys I have gotten to know there.  

My wife had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and she headed back to school.  I knew deep down what I wanted to do – open my own gym and write- and in reality, I could do both wherever I was located.  

I have been passionate about three things in life consistently: Martial Arts, fitness, and writing.

The word passion is overused a lot today, so I will explain what I mean by it. To participate in each of the arts I love I was willing to put in the years it takes to become proficient in them.  To me one of the greatest attributes of all three “hobbies” – Martial Arts, writing, and fitness – is that you are never great, you can always improve.

I was introduced to Martial Arts in the 1980’s when I had just turned 13 through David Miller and Ted Lucaylucay. David owned Musashi Martial Arts Supply which was an equipment wholesaler. He also taught kickboxing to a few people at his warehouse. I met Ted through David and I was soon taking Jeet Kune Do at Ted’s Dojo in Huntington Beach.  In those days I would ride my bike to both places which would take over an hour.  I had to settle for boxing after David and Ted stopped teaching because there was no other place to train back in those days.

Throughout my teens, twenties, and early 30’s I trained sporadically when life wasn’t too crazy.  I later started training Mixed Martial Arts and I found out I really liked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2005 when my life stabilized after two decades of craziness, I began training Jiu Jitsu twice a day.  I came to the conclusion that I wanted to take it up a notch, so I started training with the fight team at Joker’s Wild in Orange County. It was there that I met a lot of future world champions.  During that time of my life I would get to work by 4:30am so that I could leave to train at noon and again at night.  I never turned down an offer to train with any fighter, because I knew that was the way to improve. When I entered the gym I would look around. Whoever was the best, that was who I would train with that day.  I cannot begin to count all of the black eyes, bloody noses, bruises and injuries I have had over the years, but I never quit.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things so writing has always intrigued me. There is nothing better than a great storyteller who can bring you into the world they are writing about.

I never took the time in school to learn anything useful about writing, so I had to do it the hard way.  I started writing a blog around the year 2000. It was called Crimeman and it almost cost me my life.

After that, I used to write on legal pads and in binders, but it was just thoughts with no direction.  Once I decided to really tell my story, it took about four years of hard work to get the book Breakshot into a form that could be further shaped and edited.  That book was rejected by publishers close to a hundred times before it found a home.

Breakshot brought me into Hollywood where I learned to write screenplays. I wrote seven over a period of years and to date I have only sold three.

Looking back my life has been a rollercoaster ride because I was always in search of the next thing. Once here in the country, life slowed down there were fewer distractions.

I knew I had to rededicate myself to my endeavors. I began to write every day on a schedule that I set for myself.  The words began to flow from within and I realized that I no longer wanted to write about criminals and their world. It no longer held my interest.  In fact, it brought me down. So I began to write about what it takes to make changes in your life, and other topics that did hold interest for me.

Training people in Los Angeles was easy for me. If a client did not meet my standards I could always find another.  In the gym, we had a constant stream of new clients. In Illinois, I had to rethink my approach and learn some patience when working with people.

It was in this process that I learned a lot about myself and what I really like to do. I found out that while I enjoy training people that fight or want to fight, it is those people who will never fight that I enjoy training the most. I found that I can help those people change their lives through their experiences in the gym.

It seems like so much more than two years have passed since I have started over in the Midwest.  I have grown and learned a lot.  My wife says I have changed a lot (for the better).  I have truly witnessed what God can do in my life.  I have seen God close some doors and open others.  I have worked hard and have met great people. I am looking forward to my future.

Ephesians 4:22-24

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

The Blank Canvas of Freedom

There is a lot of talk about freedom this week. The dictionary defines freedom as “The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”

Our lives, especially here in the United States, are a blank canvas. Each of us is an artist, applying brush strokes with our choices.

The founding fathers laid out the most important protections we have for our freedom in the Bill of Rights. Yet, sadly, few people will ever take the time to learn about those freedoms.

Yes, we have the freedom of choice. We can eat what we want, drink what we want, stay up late or go to bed early. We can choose our friends and our occupation.  We can live in any city we choose, and work hard or take it easy.

In my life, I’ve found that the more I adhere to the things that are good for me, the more freedom I have to live life to the fullest.  It sounds counter-intuitive that self-control leads to more freedom – because self-control is restricting – but once you dig deeper you may begin to see it this way too.

Let’s get back to our founding fathers and the Bill of Rights.  Take for example the first amendment.

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of religion.  One of the reasons I rejected Christianity for many years was that I felt living a Christian life would restrict me in too many ways. I wanted the freedom to make my own choices, I did not want to be told how to live my life.  

 

It turns out I was wrong, and it could not be further from the truth. Seeking to follow God’s plan for my life instead of my own has freed me.  The talents I have were given to me by him, after all.  By using my gifts and talents to serve God instead of myself, I have begun to see a much broader picture of life.  Before, I was all that mattered. Every decision was based on my desires. I was a slave to myself and to sin.

I had limited knowledge of what I believed a Christian life was about, until I dug deeper.  When I began reading the Bible, it opened up my heart and changed my life in many ways.  Before, I never gave much thought to other’s feelings or the effects of my actions on those around me. Now I know that my actions always impact others.  I was alone, without a moral compass. Today I don’t live for myself.

This has been my journey.  I’m thankful for the country I live in and the freedom to find my way to this point.  

I believe that Jesus has set me free from my past, he has forgiven me for my sins and given me a fresh start.  A chance to live life differently.  Christianity is a religion, but it is so much more than that.  It is a relationship with our creator.

We all enjoy great freedom in America, thanks to our Founding Fathers. We are free to make of our lives what we want. Why waste it? It is time for all of us to make the most of life.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

1 Peter 2:16

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.