Tag Archives: determination

In Weakness

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The Robot Surgeon

Last week started the same as any other week.  On Tuesday, after I trained my clients, I headed to wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu practice for two long hours.  I came home exhausted.  I rehydrated, showered and tried to sleep. I didn’t eat any food because early the next morning I was going to have an operation to fix a hernia.

After many years of uninterrupted mixed martial arts training, I was going to have to slow down.

There were so many things going through my mind. As I laid in bed I watched an educational video about general anesthesia, since I’d never had any surgery before.  I was worried about it.  What if I didn’t wake up?  What if I was allergic to the medications they gave me? What if…?  

Then I started thinking about the recovery.  How long would it be before I could exercise again? Spar? Lift kettlebells? Walk my dogs?

Sleep came hard with all these thoughts going through my mind.  I was up early to head to the hospital, and saw that in the night I had gotten emails and texts from people wishing me well.  Friends from my small group at church said they were praying for me.  People reaching out helped to ease my mind.

My head was pounding from dehydration, hunger and lack of caffeine.  Every morning I drink at least one huge cup of the strongest, thickest coffee to start my day.  Once I tried to give up coffee, and I lasted eighteen hours before I broke down and drank a cup.

My wife drove me towards the hospital, down a quiet country road alongside the recently harvested and now very barren fields.  She said a prayer, and I began to relax and let the anxiety go.

Once in the hospital, everything moved pretty quickly.  We filled out some papers and then I was given a gown, a bed and wheeled toward pre-op where they started my IV.  When the resident who was helping with my anesthesia came in, I was reading a book.  I looked up and noticed she looked just like a friend of mine from Los Angeles named Shannon.  That was the last thing I remember until I woke up several hours later and asked the nurses when the surgery would start.

When they told me it was over, I was a little disappointed because I had wanted to see the robot that was performing the laparoscopic surgery on me.  

The rest of the day was a blur.  The next morning I felt better, good enough to walk around the farm a couple of times.  I thought, “Wow, this is going to be easy, I’ll be training in no time.”

When evening came, so did the pain.  It hurt deep down in my abdomen all night, even the ice and the prescription pain meds (which I hadn’t intended to take) weren’t taking the edge off.  That night and the following day were the worst. There were times that I didn’t know how I could deal with it.   

And then it was over.  Saturday my pain was almost gone and I stopped taking any pain pills.  

Sunday was a busy day at church, and I had no problem being up and about.  I felt good, but was pretty tired by the end of the day.

By Monday morning I was back to my normal routine, up before dawn walking the dogs, heading to the gym to train clients, and then home to write.

For my whole life, I have found my identity in my physical strength.  Other things about my life changed, but I always had my martial arts and my fitness.  Surgery stripped that from me temporarily, and I had to rely on others to help me in things I had always been able to do for myself.  It made me question where I get my strength from when I have none of my own.  God is the ultimate source of both strength and peace in any situation.  

It was a great experience for me.  Not only is my hernia fixed, but I have a new appreciation for all the small things that make up each day that I took for granted, and for God being my strength when I am weak.

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Hebrews 4:16

Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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The Main Character

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Maybe you got the right grades in high school and attended a good college.  You came out ready to set the world on fire, but settled instead for a steady paycheck. Or, maybe like me, you went against the norm and caused some trouble earlier in life.  The unconventional life is what I lived. I always felt that there was so much more to life than playing it safe.

What makes you tick? If you were writing down your story, how would you describe your character?  Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and jot down a few things.  It’s not what we do for a living that defines us, it’s who we are as a person and what we live for.

Why does your character make the choices they do?

How does their life affect those closest to them?

What has your character learned that they can pass on to others?

How would others describe your character?

These are just answers for you to think about, not for anyone else to see, so answer them truthfully.  Now that you have a description of your character,  let it sit for a bit.  Come back to it later and read it again.

Do you like the character that you see forming on the page?  If yes – great!

If you are not happy in anyway, get busy.

All of us benefit by thinking about the people we look up to, and qualities they possess.  By working to incorporate those qualities into our day-to-day life, they can become part of our character too.

As long as you are still living, the story isn’t over.  The character is not written in stone.

No matter who you are or what you are doing now, you have within yourself the ability to change your story, improve your character.

Investing time in improving your character is time well spent. We all have time.  How we spend it comes down to what is most important to us.

Part of the character building process is realizing we can not go at it alone.  Ask for advice, ask for help, and when you do you may be surprised at the outcome.

Looking back at the main character of my story, there were a lot of qualities I’m not proud of in the younger me.  The good news is, I wasn’t doomed to stay that way forever.  With commitment, time, hard work, help from others and a lot of help from God, I’ve changed.  I’m still a work in progress, and my story isn’t over, but I’m here to let you know, you can change too if your character isn’t what you want it to be.

If you had a hard time coming up with a list of qualities that you have, the Bible is a great place to look.  It has a whole lot to say about character traits.  For every good character quality, there is a bad counterpart.  Take a few minutes to glance through the list below.  Pick a quality listed and see which side of the coin your character currently sits on.

CHARACTER TRAITS

Alertness vs.  Unawareness

Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I  can have the right response to it (Mark 14:38)

Attentiveness vs.  Unconcern

Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided  attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)

Availability vs.  Self-centeredness

Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the  wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20–21

Contentment vs.  Covetousness

Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my  present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)

Creativity vs.  Underachievement

Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective  (Romans 12:2)

Decisiveness vs.  Double-mindedness

The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the  will and ways of God (James 1:5)

Deference vs.  Rudeness

Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of  those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)

Dependability vs.  Inconsistency

Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means  unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)

Determination vs.  Faintheartedness

Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time  regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7–8)

Diligence vs.  Slothfulness

Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the  Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)

Discretion vs.  Simplemindedness

The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which  could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)

Endurance vs.  Giving up

The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish  God’s best (Galatians 6:9)

Flexibility vs.  Resistance

Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be  changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)

Forgiveness vs.  Rejection

Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and  allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)

Generosity vs.  Stinginess

Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for  His purposes (II Corinthians 9:6)

Gentleness vs.  Harshness

Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of  others (I Thessalonians 2:7)

Gratefulness vs.  Unthankfulness

Making known to God and others in what ways they have  benefited my life (I Corinthians 4:7)

Hospitality vs.  Loneliness

Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual  refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)

Humility vs.  Pride

Recognizing that it is actually God who is responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:6)

Initiative vs.  Unresponsiveness

Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)

Joyfulness vs.  Self-pity

The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in  fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)

Love vs.  Selfishness

Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive  personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)

Loyalty vs.  Unfaithfulness

Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God  and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)

Meekness vs.  Anger

Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)

Orderliness vs.  Disorganization

Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the  greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)

Patience vs.  Restlessness

Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving  Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3–4)

Punctuality vs. Tardiness

Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Resourcefulness vs.  Wastefulness

Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or  discard (Luke 16:10)

Responsibility vs.  Unreliability

Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting  from me (Romans 14:12)

Security vs.  Anxiety

Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)

Self-Control vs.  Self-indulgence

Obedience to the promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)

Sensitivity vs.  Callousness

Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and  emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)

Sincerity vs.  Hypocrisy

Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)

Thoroughness vs.  Incompleteness

Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my  work or words if neglected (Proverbs 18:15)

Thriftiness vs.  Extravagance

Not letting myself or others spend that which is not  necessary (Luke 16:11)

Tolerance vs.  Prejudice

Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)

Truthfulness vs.  Deception

Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)

Virtue vs.  Impurity

The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate  from my life as I obey God’s Word (II Peter 1:3)

 

List taken and edited from the one found at: http://graceonlinelibrary.org/home-family/christian-parenting/49-godly-character-qualities

 

No Excuses

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Fun

When I was growing up, I watched the people around me and learned from what I observed.  I wanted to be a part of a certain criminal lifestyle, and everyone in that circle was older than me.  The only way that I could be a part of that world was to do everything better than those around me.  

I took all the advice that came my way from the older, more successful criminals around me. The mafia life is one of oral history and apprenticeship, there is no “school” to graduate from, so being able to listen was a huge part of it.

An older guy once told me, “Listen, nobody cares about your personal problems. Just get done what you’re asked to do.” That stuck with me my whole life.  The rules were clear. Do what you are told, and never come back empty handed or with any excuse.You always show up when called for, and on time. If there might be traffic, leave early.  If there might be bad traffic, leave earlier.  Being late was a sign of disrespect.

Those lessons became part of my life and I was able to see the consequences when people did not follow them.

Take some time to sit and listen to people talking around you in different places.  Observe conversations on social media.  You will hear a lot of blame and a lot of excuses.  It takes more courage to step up and take responsibility for your own actions instead of making excuses.

“But Kenji… Life isn’t fair! ________ happened to me!”

Life is unfair.  No amount of wishing, or talking, or blaming will ever change that.  What we can do is be as fair as possible in our own lives and accept that worrying about things that are beyond our control will do more harm than good.

You will be surprised at how much inner peace a simple act of stepping up and taking responsibility for your life will bring you.  If you made a mistake, you can analyze your actions  and learn what to do different in the future.  Worrying about what someone else did will get you nowhere since you can’t control their future or past actions.

Approaching life in this way and makes it easier to love others, even when they may have wronged you.

What would you lose by taking responsibility for your life?  Try it out for awhile and see what happens.  Like any new endeavor, it may take a bit of time to change your reaction in circumstances.  Learn to fill your mind by thinking about positive things instead of focusing on the negative events of life.  The other choice is to keep living life like so many who spend their days blaming others for their situation.

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Galatians 6:5

For each will have to bear his own load.

Philippians 4:8

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

Ignite Change

 

 

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Change

Some of us are leaders, some of us want to be leaders, and for some, the idea of leading is scary. The truth is, we lead every day with our actions. Leading is not about telling people what to do, it is about people watching and learning the way you process and respond to life, and then deciding to follow suite.

A writer friend of mine once told me to “show not tell,” in my stories. That applies not only to writing but life. What he was saying is don’t just tell the reader about a situation, show them through the character’s actions.

I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few days as I’ve been bombarded by negative news in the media.  It would seem the world has gone mad and everyone has a grievance.  On a large scale things seem so far from where they should be, and it’s easy to get discouraged.  While we may never be able to fix the world or even the city/town we live in, we can each set an example in how we live our life.  You can’t give up – you have to keep improving, starting with yourself.

Think about your life, do you talk one way around some people and live another? Start matching your actions with those words.  This is why so many people act out, we are told one thing, but what they see being done is something completely different.

Change comes from the those who lead the way. I will share a little bit of what I have learned through my journey of change.

I decided that I need to change my life in 1996. I did not know at that time where the changes ahead would take me, and it’s a journey I’m still on today.  It was a daunting task because I had so many areas of my life that I needed to work on. I knew how to see things through on a smaller scale, and I decided to apply that to my life.  The first thing I had to do was change my environment.

I started devoting time bettering myself through knowledge and exercise. I made these two things priorities and made pursuing them a habit.  I pinned down aspects of my life that I knew were wrong, and I began to work on them one at a time.   As soon as I conquered one, I would learn that I had two more to work on.

I learned over time that being strong is not the same thing as being confrontational or aggressive.  I had to learn to humble myself and open my mind up to things outside of myself. Finally, I began to treat others the way I wanted to be treated.  The biggest moment of change and humility for me was when I realized I was living my life for myself when I should live it for God.

 Then one day, for the first time in my life, people started thanking me for being a positive and inspirational person.  This had never happened to me before because in the past I was known only for my negativity and the negative things I was capable of doing.

All this time, I’ve been working on change within, and the lessons I’ve learned and lived have had an effect on those around me.  I got a text yesterday from a friend and it read, “Dude thank you for inspiring me without being preachy.”

I have a long way to go, and I know I’ll never be perfect.  But while I’m on my journey I’m going to shine my light to anyone who is looking encouragement or a push in the direction of positive change.

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Philippians 2:1-3

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Freedom is not Free

 

 

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Freedom

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… often attributed incorrectly to the Constitution, they are the famous words found in the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

You are free to choose how you spend your time, where you live, what you read, the words you speak, and the future you work towards.  There are no hordes of barbarians at your gates, no wild beasts hunting you, you don’t have to spend your days gathering and hunting for your meals.  If you believe you are being held down by some force, then you are – you will be holding yourself back.

So where is your time spent?  This is where the small steps and freedom of choice come into play daily our lives. Will you watch a tv drama, a sports game, or go to the gym?  We can spend our time on distractions or we can better ourselves and those around us. Exercise will make you feel better physically and mentally.  If you feel better, those around you will notice and be inspired.  Lead by example.  Will you spend an hour on Facebook or pick up a book and feed your mind?

Liberty, wrote Thomas Jefferson, is “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”  We are all given the right to do as we choose, as long as it does not infringe on others.   

Many people confuse unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the right to be cared for and have our needs met for us.  Our needs being met is not something we are owed by being born.  We have the freedom to choose how we meet them through our decisions and how we spend our time.

Government was never intended to take care of our needs – that is what we are intended to use our freedom to accomplish.  That and so much more! The beauty of life in our day is that meeting needs is just the beginning, the limit is the limit of your dreams and your hard work.

Very few people living in the United States understand this concept. Many people would prefer for the government to be our surrogate parents, taking care of us from the cradle to the grave.  That has become a big pattern of this world.  Paul writes in Romans that as Christians we are not to be conformed to the patterns of our world, but instead we should renew our minds, take care of our bodies, and seek God’s will.  Are you renewing your mind? Taking care of your Body?  Is your goal, as Paul instructs, to find and follow God’s will for your life?

ROMANS 12
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 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.

Small Steps in the Right Direction

 

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Beekeeper Kenji

If you watch the news or log onto Facebook, you have probably heard it said by now that nothing is your fault.  Anything negative was brought upon you by an outside influence. Once you start the blame game, it’s easy to forget that we all have free will.  

Personal responsibility has the potential to turn our nation around. We live with more freedoms than any citizens in the history of the world, which gives us more responsibility in determining our own futures.  We have no nobility, no ruling class – each one of us has the potential to become whatever we wish in life.

As free people in a free society, our lives are the sum of the decisions we make.  I know many people will disagree with me on that.  Most will insist on pointing to one bad thing that happened to them, which they blame for changing their life.  In reality, life is the culmination of many small decisions made over a long period of time that shape our lives.  When we don’t like who we are, it can be very hard to accept that we are to blame.

Think about where you are at this moment in life and trace it backwards. If you are honest with yourself you will see that your past actions determine where you are today.

The great news is that nothing is permanent.  You can change your life by changing the decisions you make on a daily basis.

It is up to you, and only you, to change the behaviors that have caused you to be where you are. When changes are made, the outcome will reflect those changes.

If you try to change everything at the same time you are less likely to change anything in the long run.  Zero in on one thing you want to change, and start with that.  Take baby steps, all aimed toward the same goal.  Successful people know where they want to go, and what it takes to get there.

I see this concept of the importance of the small things in nature.  This year I started to learn beekeeping as a beekeeper’s apprentice. We began in the spring with two hives.  After a couple of months we got a phone call about some bees swarming at a nearby home, so we went and picked up a third swarm and put it in a hive.  One of the three hives flourished and grew strong, but the other two were just getting by.  We combined the two weak hives to make one bigger hive.

After the bees worked through the spring, summer and early fall, we checked on their progress.  They need to have enough honey to last through the cold Illinois winter, so it would not be unusual if there was not enough extra honey to harvest any the first year of keeping bees.

Each hive is made of wooden boxes called supers and each super has eight frames hung in it.  The bees make honeycomb on each frame and fill the honeycombs with honey. When we checked the hives, they had each produced and stored enough honey that there was enough extra to remove one super from each hive.

From the two supers, we ended up extracting 27 pounds of honey, which ended up being over two gallons. Each teaspoon of honey represents a dozen bee’s life of work. That means 18,432 bees devoted their lives to make the 1536 teaspoons of honey we harvested. That is a lot of small steps that add up to a big accomplishment.

My own life began to change when I stopped and thought about my long-term goals.  What would be the honey harvest of my life?  I used to make snap decisions without thinking.  I would go off and do what looked exciting or fun.  Once I directed my energy towards a long-term outcome and forgot about the short-term distractions, I began to see real change.

Change is hard.  That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes on your goal, not on how you’re feeling at the moment.  As Christians, we often quote the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” This can be taken out of context to give the impression that life is not hard with God is on our side.  The truth is far from that. Paul, when he was writing that, was in prison.

God doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that he won’t give you anything you can’t handle (as Pastor Arol preached so clearly this past Sunday at Minooka Bible in his sermon about Jonah).  Life is tough.  God promises he will be with us, but he never promises it won’t be hard.

This is not limited to changing yourself, although that is where it all begins. In order to transform the world, you have to transform yourself first.

Ephesians 4:22-24

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness..

Tips from a Self Help Pro

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Everyone has goals and dreams, so why is it that some people reach them and others do not?

Our goals will depend entirely on what you deem to be important in life.  Money and possessions are top of the list for the many Americans, but goals can include spending more time doing the things that bring you joy – maybe taking a daily walk while the sun sets – or,  improving relationships with those you love.

The problem with most goals that aren’t achieved is that they are not specific enough.  Maybe you’re tired of your car breaking down and you want a new car.  What type of car, what does it cost, how long will it take you to save for it?  Maybe you want to spend more time reading or get more sleep.  What books do you want to read? What time do you need to go to bed to get enough sleep? Instead of just losing weight, what size pants do you want to wear, what weight do you want to reach?

Clarify your goals, make them specific.  Write them down.

Hopefully. you have multiple goals, and you take the time to define them all clearly.  It’s also helpful to identify and write down any possible pitfalls you might encounter on the way.

The second step is to come up with a plan on how you will start moving toward your goal.  Let’s say you chose weight loss. Do you want to just take a pill and lose it or maybe have an operation? A more realistic plan for long-term success would be to schedule 45 minutes at least three times each week exercising.  Find a trainer or a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.

Whether you reach your goal or not is entirely in your hands.

Now that you have those first two out of the way it is time for number three: putting your plan into action. Every person who ever began a new path in life began with nerves.  We like to be comfortable, and we feel secure when things stay the same, but there can be no change if you avoid unfamiliar ground.   Doubt will come to mind, but don’t let your mind hold you back.

The fourth part is putting in the work. You are building the foundation of your goal.  You may not notice anything for days or weeks at first, but if you work at it continually, you will.  I like setting small goals that I can hit along they way to my ultimate goal.  If your goal is a new car, set a goal to save $400.  Once you reach that, make a new goal of $1000.  Keep setting a new one after you reach the old.  Progress is all most of us need to keep moving forward.

Start picturing yourself accomplishing what was once only a goal.

 

 

 

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Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s

 

What else could there be?  What else is important?  The fifth step is to keep going!  There are times you will feel discouraged, and there are times you will want to quit.   That is when you must dig deep – go back to the paper where you wrote down your goals and remember the reasons they are important to you.  Re-evaluate your methods and adjust, but keep moving forward.  If a door closes, you open another or go around.  Stick with it!

If this sounds like a chapter out of a self-help book, it’s because over the years I have read a LOT of them.  They all had something to offer – encouragement, a plan.  By following their suggestions I strengthened my resolve and accomplished a lot of goals.  Whether the goals were financial or physical, they brought short-term happiness and feelings of success, but none of them brought me lasting inner peace or joy.

My values changed when I started living my life to serve God instead myself.  The reasons behind my goals in the past were always self-serving.  Now, when I set goals and accomplish them, I do it to glorify Him, instead of myself.

1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)

 

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.