Tag Archives: Inspiration Motivation Life Jesus faith grace overcoming personal resposibility

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.

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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.

 

Does Ethnicity Define Me?

 

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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.

 

 

 

Priorities In Life

If you really want to do something in this life, you will find the time.  It all comes down to priorities.   I learned this early on in life.

I decided as a kid that I wanted to learn and become as good as I possibly could at martial arts like Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and kickboxing. I made time for my training every day, and some days I would do two-a-days.  My passion has not waned for it, even now, four decades later.

It affected my life outside of the gym.  I stopped going out late at night so that I would be in better mental shape when I trained.  I ate right, so I could physically train at my best. I went out of my way to find the best people in the area, trying different gyms, meeting new people who were also passionate about martial arts.  I surrounded myself with people who would help me improve.  Many people never want to challenge themselves, so they only train with people on the same level. To learn you must move outside your comfort zone.

When I made the decision to grow closer to God, that became a new priority in my life, and I had to make time for it.  Before I started attending church, I used to spend my Sundays either prospecting for gold or hiking in the mountains and deserts around southern California. Once I started attending church, that was no longer an option.  I knew the IMG_3652 (1)church was more important to my spiritual growth.  I decided that I also needed to join a Bible study, to learn from others who could teach me more about the Bible.  I dedicated another night of the week to those classes.

There are lots of ways to make more time for your priorities.  When we moved from Los Angeles to Illinois we decided we were not going to have cable anymore. I thought I would miss it a little – I liked getting the UFC fights and watching certain shows.  Instead, I learned that I had wasted a lot of time on that distraction, and could make better use of my time.  Now I have time to read more books than I used to.  I take my dogs on more walks than I used to.  I get more done each day and I sleep better.  It’s amazing what I have time for now that I got rid of the extra nonsense.

What are your priorities? What will you accomplish if you use your time for what is most important to you?  As a trainer and an athlete, I encourage you to try hitting the gym instead of watching sports on television, and you will be surprised at the benefits that come your way physically and mentally.  As a Christian, I encourage you to invest in your spiritual life in the Bible and at church.

 

1 Timothy 4:8

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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 Challenge

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At 20 years old I believed I had life figured out. I knew how to put cash into my pocket and a roof over my head. I was able to do what I wanted whenever and wherever I wished.There was nothing I wanted from church, so in my mind, I didn’t need it. Same with God.

I determined to think positive, work hard and keep moving forward with my ultimate goals always in mind.

The formula was simple: get cash in whatever way possible, and keep it coming.

Why would I need God? I had science.  I knew why the sky was blue and the sun came up every morning. I didn’t need to read a book that was thousands of years old and had no relevance to my modern life.

If you were to ask me how the world was created, I would have said the big bang. If you asked me what caused the big bang, I would have answered, “It just happened.”

That was my limited way of thinking because my world was so small.  I had become a criminal at a young age.  Organized crime is not just about committing crimes, it is a way of life that takes over.  Everyone in the life looks at every situation through tinted glass: how can we benefit on a large scale.  Everyone around me did the same.  I cut my hair, shaved and dressed like I was told. Every person I was around was part of the life, or I didn’t consider them a friend.

I wanted to expand and become more successful which means I wanted more cash each week. I asked my capo, Jimmy, to put me with Mark – an older gambler who ran a sports book.  In other words, Mark was a bookie.  I had sold parlay cards and other sports gambling products so I knew the world.  Mark showed me how to set up my book and balance it.  I learned the lingo and the kind of bets gamblers would place.

The next year I was ready to go out on my own.  My first year I did well because I had older guys like Mark helping me along.  The next year I did even better and I expanded.  Everyone gambles and it does not hurt anyone – this is what I told myself over and over again.  This was a big lie because a person who is addicted to gambling will do anything to feel the thrill. Even when faced with ruin, these people kept gambling.

I soon swallowed up smaller bookies and they began working for me.  The money came easily because I was the house and the house always makes 10% on any bet.  I used the extra cash to loan out and gain more cash through loans.  Gambling is unlike any other business because you are not out any real product, only figures on a sheet of paper.

After twelve years I couldn’t stand my life at all. I wanted out of the life, but I was not willing to go through the uncomfortable period it would take to change.  The criminal’s dream is to find something that will bring in the same amount of cash that they are making except the profit becomes legal.  Until I realized that my way of thinking was broken and had to change, I would go no place fast. It wasn’t until my dream became getting out of the life altogether, profit or not, that I would find the answer.

God’s timing is perfect, but I didn’t know that at the time.  The FBI offered me a chance at a fresh start, and that was the turning point. I spent the next 8 years trying to undo what I spent my life before doing.  While I was still a part of the criminal world for the next eight years, I was no longer there as a criminal but as an informant for the FBI.

God gave me a fresh start, but it took me almost another ten years of trying to start over on my own before I turned to Him.

The challenge for me was to let God guide me instead of trying to find my own way.  It is a process that I am still going through and will be going through for the rest of my life. I know that everything I encounter is part of His plan, and I have to surrender my plans to His. When I look back at my life, I see a lot of mistakes.  I also see God’s hand at work. Success, I have learned, is all relative to what you consider successful.  The things our world considers success we learn in the Bible are very different from what early Christians, like Paul, considered most valuable – knowing Christ as our savior.

Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

I have learned some very hard lessons and all that I have learned about true success has helped me in two ways.  The hard work and positive thinking is still a part of my life.  I learned that I cannot be successful with doing what I feel is right, true success comes from knowing we are flawed and Christ bridged the gap between our flaws and God, offering himself as a sacrifice.  All the success you think you have or aim for will never be enough until you ask God into your life and make knowing and serving Him your definition of success.