Monday, April 7

Arriving in Mexico and My First New Friends...

We arrived in El Porvenir on Saturday night just as the sun was setting.  We had picked up David (our translator) in Fowler, CA, just outside of Fresno, where we stayed Friday night at the Fowler Presbyterian Church.  We were on our way from Folwer by about 8 am in order to get to our destination before sun down.  Crossing over the border is a much simpler process on Saturday than
we would experience a week later but the Mexican authorities did want to make sure to search the trailer that Rusty was hauling behind the van.  After a quick search, we were officially in Mexico!

I had ridden in a car many years ago in Mexico and remember the crazy driving that happens there.  Now I was the driver.  Upon crossing the border we were met with "Alto" signs (stop), and frequent ones.  Stop lights are very few in the area we were at, and though the traffic signs and signals seemed to be more like suggestions to most drivers, I certainly felt safer driving in Tecate than I did driving in LA.  Our first stop was at a local gas station where we did a little money exchanging.  Looking back I would have probably exchanged more, as the exchange rate was rather shady in some areas than in others.... but more on that.

Our next stop was in a town just off the road from Tecate to El Porvenir.  Getting to that first stop was not easy.  On the highway, if there is shoulder that is also defined as a "passing" lane.  I put that in quotes as there really isn't enough room for 2 cars but they make due.  David lets us know that this highway is in great condition compared to the way the road once was.  The road is also full of trucks, fast and slow, as well as many tour buses taking Americans to Ensenada through the recently made wine country.  We arrive at our first stop just off the highway, on a dirt road subdivision.  All the homes in Mexico are much like this one.  A fence surrounds the perimeter of the house and most houses have well put together fences made of brick, stones and rot-iron.  The fences serve 2 purposes:  1. They keep the dogs in and out.  Dogs roam the streets in Mexico looking for something to eat and somewhere to go, and everyone has a least one, for companionship and protection.  2. The fence serves as a way to keep the bad guys out.  Every night the fences are locked, as we would like our front doors.  Crime is not a serious problem and the well fenced houses serve to detour would be vandalizers.

The house we arrive at is Grandma Beatrice and Carmelo's home.  In the home is one of their daughters whom lives in California, a son, Micheal and Michael's 2 children who are in Middle School and High School.  Carmelo wastes no time in letting all of us know that he is 92 years young and his wife is spry and very excitable younger woman (probably around 86).  Michael it seems as had a very difficult life, in and out of prison with substance abuse issues, he responds incredibly well to our visit.  Though it's my first time at their home, Rusty, David and the group has been there many times before.  We spent a few minutes in greeting, made sure to invite them for dinner later on in the week and then it was off for the last leg of our journey, about a 20 minute drive to our destination at El Porvenir.

By the time we arrived, they were getting ready to send out a search party as our stops, including lunch at In and Out Burger in LA, had made us a little tardy.  Our guest home was a little over 2500 square feet, an original children's home, with bedding for everyone of our 29 people.  After unpacking and picking out rooms, we made our way to my new favorite spot, Gregorio's Taco Stand!

Thursday, April 3

The Earlywine's in Mexico (An Overview)

I have to say that it has been a while since my last blog posting, I realize it has been... almost to the day... a year.  Pretty crazy... I notice, as I look back, the journey that God has taken me on in my life, specifically the last the few years.  I have learned so much from others and experiences that seem to further solidify that God is at work in my life through many of you and a huge Thank you is what you deserve.  The 6th and Gibbs Church has remained an incredibly solid part of my life and your patience with me has been a blessing to say the least.

Last year I began to realize that my world, my theology and my experiences were pretty small and they all fit comfortably in boxes I designed for them.  As my family crossed the country for wedding in Nebraska I began to learn something about my self:  I needed to get out more.  My life's goals were so pathetically small compared to what I see God calling me for.  So, I called up a friend of mine and asked if we could tag along on his mission trip to Mexico the following year.  Let me be clear, I said WE.  I intended to make my ENTIRE family a part of this process.  Graciously, he agreed to bring along a couple 2 and 4 year old boys full energy and wildness!  

The Welcome sign for El Porvenir, our home for 7 days.
There are a couple reasons I find it important to bring my children.  First of all, I believe that families are created to share experiences and I couldn't imagine experiencing something so great that I would leave my children out of it.  Some would say I am crazy for bringing all my kids along, I say it's too rich of an experience not to!

There were a few people concerned about our safety in Mexico, with all of the stories about the Mexican Cartels and such.  I think we forget that we have plenty of mafia and gangs right in our back yard.  As Markus, the pastor of the El Porvenir church in Mexico said it, "In Mexico and America, if you go looking for trouble, you will find it."  We met a lot of people on our journey, many gracious and loving people who wave back with big smiles.  I even went for a 3 mile run along the outskirts of El Porvenir, it truly was a beautiful, quiet and serene run...

I do intend to blog about our experiences and share many stories of people and experiences I went through.  As I am still recovering and processing there is one thought that has driven me throughout this experience.  My American wealth is a blessing, not to be used selfishly but to be used as a blessing to others.  Away from it all, I didn't miss the internet, or my smart phone updating me constantly about the news; I didn't miss television or the other gadgets that steal my peace.  I didn't miss my bed all that much or any of my outdoor lawn furniture.  I was too busy.... not with busyness... but with relationships.  I think and I hope to show you that the lessons I learned from El Porvenir, didn't stay in El Porvenir, they are lessons I plan to apply in my hear and now.

Lesson #1:  EVERYTHING I have is a blessing to be used to bless others.  How can I use my time, my talents and my stuff to bless others?

Wednesday, April 17

A little Perspective

This last weekend was an awesome escape for my wife and I as well as an opportunity to really test my desire for staying healthy. I know that my big issue is portion control and fun. So, on this vacation I focused on eating right and not "cheating" as it were. In fact we ate out only once a day and packed for The rest of our meals. We spent a lot more meaningful hours shopping at the antique stores and walking the beach, then we did in food lines and recovery time in the room. I had an understanding of this but I proved that it is a lot more fun to be healthy and active rather than over-full and immobile. I still enjoyed a small portion of fish and chips and came back one pound lighter than when I left.

I have all but reached my "goal" weight. (I put that in quotes because I still have some handles to lose.) Now it is time to prove I can maintain and build some muscle in the process. I look forward to my summer plans, including old man soccer and many fun filled trips. I wake earlier and ready for the day.

Spiritually speaking I have a better grasp as Jesus being the bread of life. Food once equalled fuel, now I am comprehending that food is a joy. Food was once a barrier, now food is freedom. Food was once an escape and now I understand that food is a reflection of the Lords love for me, not fuel but blessing handled with self-control.

In life we have a tendency to show self-control in some areas and a lack of self-control in other areas. Some people have addictions to drugs, while others show little or no self-control in terms of movies or video games. Some struggle with controlling their time while others form addictions to drink or food. My wife sent me a thought today: a thought Paul is given by Jesus. "My grace is sufficient." A lack of self-control in any area of life is a lack of trust driven by fear. If you are like me, food was my escape, my stress release when I needed to turn to Jesus. In fact, lets face it, if I'm not careful I can replace one with another. Eating right and working out could become my escape instead of trusting the one who put all things in order.

The journey isn't as much about food as it is about learning to trust The Lord rather leaning on my own understanding and a double cheese burger with fries. May you find hope in your journey and learn to trust the Author of your Story.

Sunday, April 7

Still Working Through it All

I am hovering about 10 lbs above my goal weight, which is probably about 10 lbs above where my goal weight should be.  I am continuing to suffer the repercussions of the Easter eating fest I had.  I still am getting over gout, which gives me a ton of information about this issue I have.  I am have learned that eating properly controls the gout AND regardless of my weight, I can still get gout.  Being that it runs in my family it is apparent that I will not get over this simply by losing weight, it will be a fun battle I will fight throughout my life.

The last 2 weeks have been about the most stressful I have had in years.  The plus is, I am still losing weight throughout a very stressful beginning of the year.  In fact, the timing of this all has been perfect because had I not chosen to "take shape for life" I think instead of losing, I would have seriously gained, so for that I am very grateful.

I had hoped to be adding a good workout program by now, in fact I had started P90X about every other day (which turns it into P180X but who's counting).  I got through about a week of that, then the gout.  I haven't even played basketball in over a week and it's pretty frustrating.

I did have one huge success, I just bought for myself a pair of size 33 waist jeans.  33 waist!  I haven't worn a 33 waist since high school, frankly I didn't wear 33's then because it was cool to have huge pants... AND I wore a shirt I accidentally purchased a couple years ago that was WAY too small, now it's the only shirt I have that really fits.

Here is a great article and how we look at food instead of God:

Wednesday, April 3

Asking the Right Questions

This last Sunday I opened it up to people to ask me any question they wanted to about the Bible and faith in general. We just concluded a study on the book of Hebrews and there were questions that people were asking that I tried to address during the series but I knew I could have answered ALL of them... unless I'm really that good. :)

Or... I am so wretched a preacher that I can't get people to consider one independent thought about faith or beliefs.

I am pretty sure I fall somewhere in between. I know that people are listening and challenged but I am certain I have not answered everyone's questions because I'm not that good. So, what is the problem? The problem is, I haven't taught or given people the freedom to ask the right questions! The information is there, we have to teach people what to do with it now.

So, how do I ask the right questions? That's a good question....

First of all we must comprehend that Small Groups, Sunday Messages and Bible Reading is not just information transfer... it's supposed to be life alteration, application laced, heart challenged and head prodding discussion. The scary truth, is that information transfer doesn't change lives, we are the most informed people group in the history of the world and we are still pretty messed up.

As you read, you have to ask yourself, which will bring about more questions, this: What am I supposed to do with this? Let me give you an example: In reading Hebrews 11 we are faced with a moral dilemma in the story of Rahab. Essentially, Rahab lies about the spies to her governing authorities and God calls her a person of amazing faith. Can I still be stuck in sin and a faithful person???

Another important thing we have to do to ask the right questions is to take a look at the culture around us. Through scripture we are challenged to evaluate the cultural norm verses scripture. During the time of Paul, food sacrificed to idols was a big deal. If I ate food sacrificed to an idol would I be participating in sin? So, is it okay to drink alcohol, smoke a cigarette, dip tabaccy? Does the gay marriage debate point to a cultural flaw or a Biblical mandate? Does homosexuality and racism a legit characterization?

How does God view homosexuality? How He views it, is how I should respond...

Are taxes ethical? How should I determine my giving to the church? Does repentance mean I have to make right my wrongs? Does forgiveness mean I have to be friends with someone again? Where did those dinosaurs go anyway? How scientific is scripture? Why should I take marriage seriously? How far is too far outside of marriage?

Those are just a few questions driven by our culture and media.

National events can also cause us to question: What's the deal with the new pope? Are we really heading into the End Times? Is Justin Beiber the anti-Christ? What is the anti-Christ anyway...?

Hebrews 13 reminds us that Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. If that's true, we have a lot of things to talk about.

Tuesday, April 2

Post Easter Ugh

We had a great Easter this year as a church and as a family. Yet when it was all said and done i was pretty blah. I am never really happy it, it could of and should have been better. In fact when it boils down to it those thoughts are a poor reflection of how I view God. Like he would have been much happier had I done "better." What a fool I am.

So, in my funk I totally blew off my diet. Sure, I only ate one meal on Easter it just happened to last ALL day. Which by the way sent me into a deeper funk. I woke the next day to a condition I hadn't had since starting this diet thing. Gout. In a funk, indigestion and gouty.

Luckily for me, I am not a product of my environment. I am a product of an encouraging Savior who went to great lengths to spend an eternity with me. I think I lost that for a day or two and tried to rely on my own ambition and strength.

The Lord sent me a few encouraging moments today. I'm heading out of this funk.

Tuesday, March 26

A Healthier Me

I have to say that I have never viewed myself as I truly am, so frankly when I saw these pictures side by side, I was a little disturbed.  I have now come to grips with who I was... who am I kidding, I don't ever want to get there again!  So, I have begun the journey to learn to eat right, eat healthy and treat my body well.  Even in my plump state I put forth exercise... only to be followed with multiple cheeseburgers.  The extra work, only gave me permission to eat completely unhealthy.

I'm not finished, in fact I am learning some skills to help me maintain and only time will tell BUT I certainly know what I am up against now.

So, this picture shows me in January when I weighed approximately 242 lbs just days before I started the Take Shape for Life Program.  The picture on the right was taken last week when I weighed about 210 lbs.  My goal is 190... I'm hoping to be there by April 14th when my bride and I take a mini vacation.  I will most likely continue the weight loss after 190 but let's get there first.

I began to couple the Take Shape for Life program with P90X, though it's not necessarily suggested I am focusing a little resistance training to build some muscles in my shoulders and arms.  (which my wife deeply appreciates)  I will be working on trying to keep you posted on my continued journey.
I know, the green socks add so much to the photo(s) but let's get over the socks!