Tag Archives: Farm

Seasons

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Fall

I realized this week that our second winter on the farm in Illinois is quickly approaching and I am looking forward to it! Living most of my life in California, I never experienced the changing seasons or the beauty of fall in the countryside.  When I lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan I would just get on a plane and head back home to California for a week each month when it got cold.

I never dreamed that I would be living on a farm with chickens, honey bees, ducks, dogs and acres of corn and beans. The chicken breasts I bought in the grocery store always came wrapped in plastic. I’ve learned that they do not start that way.  

It has been a period of learning.  I have learned about another way of life and I have also learned a lot about myself.

My life has been a series of small changes that have taken place very slowly because I was afraid of change. God wanted to heal my stone heart, but I resisted it along the way.  Looking back I have to laugh at myself because all of this could have been much easier.

 I took the long way.   How many of you resist change?  I did for so long because I wanted to hold on to some vague idea I had about myself.  I was a slave to ideas and thoughts that kept me in various states of the same place in life.

Today, I want to work on everything in my life that I feel could change for the better.  I want to do it all at once, but I know that I have to work on one thing at a time.  Trying to move fast or working on too many problems at once will just lead to failure. Do you try to accomplish so much at one time that you end up getting nothing finished?

I think about where I am now in life and I feel this is where I should be at this time.  It is another learning stage where I will be until I have grown and am ready for the next stage.  Have you ever thought about the stages we go through and what purpose they serve?

Growing up we had a small lawn that took me at most a half an hour to mow.  When I was older I just hired a gardener like everyone else.  Mowing the grass on the farm takes me four to six hours and at some point it in the seasons it may even need to be done twice a week. There are days that can be so hot that I’m drenched in sweat or it can be so cold that I have to cover every part of my body to stay warm.  I enjoy mowing, it gives me time to think about everything.  It is a little like hitting a heavy bag with music blaring.  The rest of the world does not matter.  I am concentrating on a simple task, from start to finish.  Do you have anything in your life like that?

Living in Los Angeles I used to wake up at 4am so I could hike with Phoenix (my dog) every morning.  It was a perfect time when the city was quiet and dark.  I loved being up in the hills of the park when it was dark.  Here there are no hills but there is plenty of open space and lots of stars to see. I had to change things up after we adopted Henry (our other dog) so that I had more time in the morning. 3am is my new time to hit the road with the two dogs.  I am often asked how I do it at that time.  It is easy because it is my regular schedule.  I am committed to take out my dogs for a walk every morning no matter what.  Do you value your commitments?  Will you keep them even when it is hard or the weather is bad?

There is an added benefit with the early walks.  I get to see a lot of wildlife that most people never get to see.  I have seen coyotes, skunks, a bobcat, lots of raccoons, owls, a bald eagle, and many deer.   I get to learn about the land and what it supports.  I also add a few miles of cardio to my day.

Our lives are not straight lines to our destinations.  Life isn’t one long season, but more like the weather in the midwest, with seasons of growth, harvest and some cold hard winters and other lighter winters.  I have enjoyed the beautiful colors of fall this month and I am looking forward to this coming second winter.  Then, a new spring where everything comes back alive.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To everything

, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ezekiel 11:19

19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

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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..

Does Ethnicity Define Me?

 

minidoka

Camp Minidoka, WWII

 

I am half Japanese, and thanks to a DNA test I recently took, I also now know I am 13% Lakota Sioux.  My ethnicity is a part of my story, my heritage.

My father was born in America, but his mother and father were both born in Japan.  They emigrated from Japan legally at the turn of the century. They became farmers and had to lease land because at that time it was illegal for Asian immigrants to own land in America or to become naturalized citizens.  Property laws were written to exclude everyone but white immigrants and those of African descent.  My father and his sister were born in America, so they were the first US citizens in my family. The family built up a profitable agriculture business on the leased farm land and also exported GE appliances to Japan.  My father attended the University of Washington from 1939 – 1941 until the US entered World War II in 1941.

In April of 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.  Soon after, 120,000 Japanese (of whom 62% were American citizens) were relocated to concentration camps.

They gave these camps names like “Camp Harmony” which was located in Puyallup, Washington at a fairground.  The Japanese were only able to bring the things they could carry with them to the camps.  Many people lived in animal stalls of the fairgrounds or in makeshift shanties, which provided poor shelter come winter.  Their homes, businesses, and land were lost.   Family heirlooms such as swords and paintings left behind were taken by the Americans representing the United States Government.

My father and his family would end up at Camp Minidoka in Idaho.   My grandmother died in that camp.  My father, along with a number of other fighting-age Japanese Americans volunteered for the Army, which was the only way to be allowed to leave the camp until the war ended.

The war ended in 1945, and at that time the Japanese were free to leave and move to where they wished.  Many would start over in new places since their homes and businesses were taken from them.  Many who left the camps vowed never to speak Japanese again.

They worked hard to rebuild their lives. Even after the war, Japanese were prohibited from buying land in many states until 1956.

 

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Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

My father rarely mentioned those times to me.   Despite prejudices he encountered, he was successful in his career after the war.  He introduced me to the Japanese culture from a young age, but it was always made very clear to me that we were Americans.

 

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Massacre at Wounded Knee

 

 

When I hear people say the worst mass shooting in American history was at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, I wonder where they learned their history.  On December 29th, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota over 500 US Army and members of the 7th Cavalry opened fire on 350 Lakota Indians in their camp. They killed 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. The Cavalry dead numbered only 25, many of which were killed by friendly fire from their own Hotchkiss guns. As a reward for the mass slaughter of Lakota Sioux, twenty of the US soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to those in the military service.

These stories are a small part of the struggles of my ancestors, but they do not define me or dictate my future.  I am proud of being mixed race.  No derogatory words towards my heritage can harm me or derail my dreams.  If someone looks down on me because of my ethnicity, I know that I cannot change the way they think. That can only come from within them.  I can choose how I will act, how I will react, and how hard I will work for my dreams.  

Every ethnicity has a story of struggle at one point in their history.  The only way we can make this world a better place is to work on our own behavior.  While the setbacks are a part of our story, they do not define or limit us unless we let them.  The best way to combat prejudice is with success.

Galatians 3:82

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

Fitness & Faith

 

 

Moving from Los Angeles was exciting and scary all at the same time.  I knew I could always train people while I wrote on the side.  I had no idea if I could still sell anything I wrote, being so far away from Hollywood and all the producers.  

I love the martial arts and I love strength training.  In Los Angeles,

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Old School Boxing

I worked for Justin Fortune, a former boxer who fought Lennox Lewis the heavyweight champion who knocked out Mike Tyson.

Justin is a world class trainer who excels at strength and conditioning.  He is very sought after by elite athletes in combat sports. He trains Manny Pacquiao before his fights. I learned a lot from Justin and from all the top-ranked talent that came into his gym. Justin would pass off clients to me that he was too busy to train.  He gave me fighters and actors who I ended up training for a long time.  

One time Justin passed off a young kid named Santiago who was training for a film role.  He was not understanding the proper form for punches or the footwork, but he was willing to put in the time each day to get better. As I watched his boxing and physique improve over time, I also noticed his demeanor and confidence change.  Seeing someone change in front of my eyes was great.

My ministry as a Christian is helping those around me achieve their goals through physical health.  Ministry is about each of us helping those that we can, in ways that we are best equipped to do so.  I started training people in our basement and outside. My approach is simple, I teach each person like I am teaching a professional.  I explain it, show them, and if they choose to listen I show them some more. If they just want to get in a workout and aren’t interested in learning proper technique, I back off on technique.  Usually, after a time, they will also want to improve their form. I introduce them to a strength and conditioning program that is based on the programs we used for conditioning fighters in Los Angeles.  Each person can go at their own speed and level.

After the big move, I wanted to start training people again in the Midwest.  I knew it would take some time to build up clientele.   Not long after moving, I was sent this link to a video about a gym named Rock Steady Boxing that teaches boxing for Parkinson’s patients. You can see an improvement in the quality of life after a few weeks in every patient who trains.  I called them and tried to get into one of their weekend training programs, but they were booked until late in the year 2016. I added my name to a waiting list and received an email in March of 2016 that someone had canceled and they could fit me in that month if I was available – which I was.  

The three days I trained at Rock Steady Boxing were life changing for me because I was taught about the disease by leading doctors, researchers and professors in the field, and I worked with actual Parkinson’s patients.  One of the men in my group, Daniel, had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  I could see that it was weighing heavy on him.  Daniel was a pastor in the south who wanted to learn the Rock Steady Boxing program to help others while he helped himself.  Daniel had no boxing or training experience, so we partnered up and I helped him as much as I could.  I showed him how to hold focus mitts and to throw punches.

I worked with many patients over the next few days and I saw the same thing in every one of their eyes.  I saw hope!  It was the first time since they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s that they could do something to help themselves.  A way to improve their health and fight back.  I watched and trained them as they joked and laughed. I was excited to find a way to branch out my ministry – this was something I could do and be proud of doing!

I started training my first Parkinson’s patient just over three months ago, and the changes have been amazing.  He is stronger and his balance and coordination are off the charts now.  I have him doing complicated footwork drill and he can keep up. The bonus is that I train his wife at the same time and she has also seen some amazing gains.  Rock Steady Boxing gym always trains the spouse or caregiver alongside the patient, and they are referred to as “the cornerman.”

In my regular early morning fitness boxing classes, I recently gained another mature adult in my class, and I can see she is also making gains.  When we get older we tend to think there is not much we can do. Wrong!  There is much more that can be done, you just have to approach it in new ways.

Many people, believers, and non forget about their health or put it on the backburner.  They forget that we must all take care of our bodies. God calls us to take care of the bodies he has given us so that we are strong enough to do his work.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or 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.
Rock Steady Boxing:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/boxing-program-trains-patients-to-beat-parkinsons/

The Wall

One particular day in 1989 stands out in my mind.  I was in my Newport Beach apartment, alone. I had just come from the library across the street where I had used the Xerox machine to copy the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

 

I sat at my table and used an Exacto knife to cut out the last two lines of the poem. They read, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I took that small paper to be laminated and I then carried it in my wallet for over a decade.

 

I look back now and I am embarrassed by my naivety.  I had read Anthony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power,” and a slew of other books.  I was using what I learned in the books to better myself. Or so I thought.

 

That was the story of my life.  I would take something and then twist it until it fit into my life. It made me feel like anything I did was okay, because I was in charge.

 

I had spent from birth through age thirteen going to church or a church school.  I had been taught better than to believe I was so powerful, but I chose to believe in myself anyway.

 

I started building a wall between myself and God in my teens. I was twenty when I started carrying those laminated words in my wallet.  My goal from an early age, from 1984 until the mid-1990’s was to be a mobster, just like the ones I had seen in the movie “The Godfather.” By 1989 I was well on my way to realizing my twisted goal.

 

I had lost a friend and mentor to a murder in 1987. The murder was a classic gangland hit.  I had been with him just hours before. A normal person would have gotten as far away from anyone or anything in that life at that point.  But I didn’t.  What did I take away from his death? I thought he had become soft and slipped up.  He had started going to church and even had a taped sermon playing in his car when he was murdered. It made me think I was one of those lucky people because I was not with him.

 

I felt untouchable because things in life just seemed to work out for me.  I was arrested many times and but I always skated. They could not build a case, or they dropped it before trial.  

 

I remember getting arrested for extortion and spending ten days locked up in a cell before I was able to be arranged.  I had what I felt was bad luck by being picked up the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend.  Then they had a riot in Huntington Beach where they arrested hundreds of people.  I just wanted to make bail, but I first had to be transferred and then go to court.  I was on a no-bail hold until I went before a judge.  

 

One day when I was in my cell a chaplain came by and asked me if he could pray for me.  I told him to go ahead, I was thinking to myself, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt.”  He prayed and left me a pamphlet.  I just read some Stephen King book instead of even opening it up.

 

Finally,IMG_0541 I saw a judge.

 

I was in a cage in the courtroom chained to five other inmates. We were all bad guys, but I looked out of place being the youngest.  The guy before me stood up and took a deal for nine years like he was ordering fries at McDonald’s. Then they started reading off my charges and listing my organized crime ties. Everyone in the cage moved away from me.  I felt proud right then.  My lawyer was there and he argued that I was entitled to bail.  The judge agreed to set bail at $80,000 and I was free that day.

 

I learned nothing.

 

I had not thought about that place in my life until Pastor Arol, during a sermon at Minooka Bible brought up people who think they are the captain of their soul. That was me.  It couldn’t be much clearer than the words I lived by in my wallet.

 

I wasted many years thinking I knew what was best for me.  It was not until I surrendered my life to God that I was able to see myself for what I really was.  What I could not see because of the wall I built between us, I now see with clear eyes.

 

Have you ever built a wall between you and God, or do you have one now?

 

No matter where you are in life, I can tell you that what lies behind that wall is far greater than anything you might think you gain by standing alone.  
God’s purpose for your life is greater than any purpose you can dream of on your own.