Laughing, Looking Back on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

After 7 and a half years of marriage, my wife took it upon herself to go through our hundreds of wedding photos and put the best of them in a new album for us to enjoy.

So we sat down a couple of weeks ago, before continuing our binge watching of Making a Murderer on Netflix, to look through our newly compiled wedding album.

I soon realized that I had probably seen most of those pictures only once before, about 7 and a half years ago when we first received the photos from the photographer we hired.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

The first thing I immediately noticed was how different I looked. Those were what I refer to as my “bloated Elvis days”.

That was back when I ate whatever I wanted. Those were the days I would secretly sneak in trips to McDonald’s without my then soon-to-be bride knowing about it; she herself hadn’t been there since 1999, when she simply got an ice cream cone from the drive-through.

Granted, my wife’s health conscious-mindset rubbed off on me, and as we all know, now years into my faithfully vegan lifestyle, I now live a life free of pet allergies, sinus infections, headaches, eczema (dishydrosis), and somewhere around 30 pounds extra that I was carrying around in these old pictures.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

The second thing I noticed was my beautiful bride at our wedding (age 26) looks just as beautiful today (age 34).

And the third thing I couldn’t help but notice was that, clearly, everyone there was having a truly wonderful time.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

When you’re in the middle of your own wedding and reception, you can only take in and remember so much; especially 7 and a half years later.

Seeing these pictures showed me that not simply did our guests have fun, but they had a remarkably entertaining night out in the legendary little big town of Nashville.

That’s a good thing, considering the financial investment that a wedding is.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

We had what I would consider a big wedding and big reception. I feel it was the kind of wedding you see in movies.

Even I myself had only been to a few weddings of that caliber.

It was a party. It was a feast.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

It was a wedding of Biblical proportions, where Jesus could have performed His first miracle; when He turned the water into wine.

Not to mention, it was the perfect opportunity for all the Baptists on my side to be able to get away with drinking alcohol; as it serves as a “special occasion” to keep their consciences from bothering them as badly; an unwritten rule in the by-laws of Baptist culture.

Meanwhile, my wife’s guests had no hesitation. (They come from a Catholic background… enough said.)

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

Not one person in any of these pictures look like they’re just standing there, bored. People are smiling, laughing, and dancing.

There’s this one funny picture where one of my soon-to-be brothers-in-law is dancing with one of my soon-to-be nephews, like they are at a prom. I laugh every time I see it.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

One of my favorite pictures of all these is one from the father-daughter dance.

My father-in-law passed away just a couple of months after our wedding. Knowing he was sick, my wife’s many siblings (she has 9) gathered around my wife and my father-in-law while Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” played.

Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

I am so grateful for this candid shot of my father-in-law in that historic moment.

So while our wedding cost more than a decent car, looking back on it, it was one amazing wedding.

On my own, I wouldn’t have sat down and looked through our wedding pictures. But thanks to my wife taking the time to put together this new album, it was a blessing to revisit that special day.Laughing, Looking through on Our Wedding Album: 3 Things I Noticed

dad from day one: Jack’s First Time to Church

Week 7.

Something I had always been acutely aware of is that when two people have a baby, there’s a good solid 6 weeks that go by where you stop seeing them in public.  But shortly after that, the couple begins to dare to make random public appearances.  Like last week, we attempted to take Jack with us to buy groceries. Really, there’s no need for me to paint the details of that story; if you can imagine it, that’s what happened.  Therefore, today I went alone to buy groceries.  It took just as long being that I’m a guy and we, the male species, don’t have instincts to tell us things like where to find vanilla extract or even at our own house where the cutting boards go in the kitchen.

But with me still not having a job yet and with the cold winter weather, the three of us have spent a lot of time indoors.  Now I know what it’s like to be a 29 year-old retired millionaire who gets to stay at home all day in his pajamas and eat cereal for lunch.  Minus the million dollars and plus the need to actually make a living.  So after a month of constantly looking online for jobs and applying, and taking care of Jack, and watching random documentaries instantly on Netflix through the Wii, we decided we were brave enough to take Jack to church for the first time; out of the womb.

Of course, despite giving ourselves plenty of time to get there early, Jack decided he wanted one last snack of milk right as we were heading out the door.  Then we had to change his diaper.  So we arrived 10 minutes late and the only place left to sit was up in the balcony.  This turned out to be a pretty good location though; since we were right next to the door for the moment he would inevitably start crying.  He lasted 35 minutes before we had to dart for the door with him.  We were impressed.

The Randomness of Easter

Back in 2004 when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, I was riding in a taxi with my friend Jessie.  We were on our way to visit a Thai museum and she was asking me about American holidays.  Describing what Easter is to a Thai native is somewhat confusing when it’s said out loud:

“Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus coming back to life after he died on a cross.  But it’s also a way to stimulate our economy because everyone buys a bunch of chocolate candy, sends gifts to each other in ‘Easter baskets’, and purchases some sort of pastel colored dress or suit and tie for the church service that Sunday.”

She asked me, “But what do Jesus and chocolate candy have to do with each other?”

The answer?  Here’s the best I can do.

The LSD tripping Easter Bunny and the general populations’ collective excitement over the candy and the traditional gift giving serve as a vehicle to force the non-religious to identify that there is some sort of significant meaning behind Easter.  They may not fully understand who Jesus is, but they at least know that a lot of other people recognize Easter as the day Jesus came back from the dead.

Americanized Easter is a vehicle that is not against Christian Easter.  It points people in the right direction.

This past Easter it occurred to me just how big of a deal that Easter is to Americans, with or without the solid understanding of what the day is actually celebrated.  My wife and I spent the weekend with my family back in Alabama.  We literally had to leave the church service because there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit.

So we left the Baptist Easter service and hung out at the Methodist church next door.  Because everyone that’s ever gone to church shows up on Easter.  It’s a major American holiday.  More major than I realized.

I kept hearing “Happy Easter” from everyone and seeing it as status updates on facebook.

Even last night Jimmy Kimmel was talking about his mom still giving him an Easter basket, though he’s now 42.  And he talked about how someone stole his friend’s seat before the church service started and all he could think about during the mass was punching the guy who stole the seat he was saving for his friend.

Funny.  And it shows that behind all the silly American traditions, that even the famous and influential Jimmy Kimmel recognizes there’s more to Easter than what’s on the surface.  In his joke he specifically stated that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus.

And I can relate to Jimmy.  I often want to punch annoying people in the face.

healthnutshell: That’s Not Food

Why don’t beer companies have to put the nutritional facts label on their bottles like soft drink companies do?

My wife and I have a few sayings at our house that we shout at the TV when fast food commercials come on, like this one:  “That’s not food!”  There’s one for Steak N’ Shake where they advertise 4 meals for under $4 each.  These “meals” consisted of fried burgers on white bread with greasy fries and a sugary soda.  Recently my wife sarcastically reprimanded the TV when she saw that commercial:  “Yeah, because that’s a meal.”

As learned on one of our favorite documentaries ever, Food Inc., almost always  nutritious food costs more than unhealthy food.  Because unhealthy food (eaten for pleasure, mood enhancement, and/or convenience) isn’t really food.  And that’s why we tend to say “that’s not food!” in our house when we see something that’s an imposter.

By all means, I’ve been tempted for months now by Pizza Hut’s “any pizza, any toppings, $10” special.  What a deal.  But I also know that just a few slices would max out my sodium, fat, and sugar for the day.  If it seems to be too good of a deal, it probably isn’t food. I haven’t given in so far, and I’m beginning to think I won’t.

Last weekend my wife’s stomach was bothering her so I got her some ginger ale, which is supposed to be a good remedy.  It worked.  But the next day she was a little disappointed to see that an 8 ounce serving contains 24 grams of sugar (the health equivalent to smoking two cigarettes).  So that got us to thinking about other sodas.  Like dark colas and bright orange sodas.  More sugar, more artificial coloring, and loads of caffeine.

Beer and alcohol virtually contain no sugar because it converts alcohol.  I’m very cautious of eating or drinking things that I know were not consumed during Biblical times.  Jesus and his disciples drank wine, not grape juice (which is full of sugar).  They also didn’t drink sweat tea or chocolate milk, which often have much more sugar than soda.

Read “healthnutshell: A Tablespoon of Sugar or a Cigarette?”
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And then the irony jumped out at us.  For sodas, a person can look on the label to see the nutritional value (or lack of it, or degenerate value).  But not for beer.  Beer only contains 4 ingredients (which are all natural) and when compared side by side for nutrition which I’ll do in a minute, is actually healthy for an adult, whereas soda never can be because of its sugary nature.

Read “healthnutshell: Barley into Beer”
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It’s funny to imagine all the foods and drinks with a nutritional facts label on them, though they have the opposition of nutrition in them.  Yet drinking a beer or glass of wine a day is healthy for a person, but it’s not treated as food.  With a little help from Yahoo Answers, I found out why.  No big conspiracy, though.

1)     Because alcohol is involved, beer is not regulated by the FDA.  Alcoholic beverages are instead monitored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and they don’t require nutritional labels for products.

2)     In theory, all beer technically ever can be is the same four ingredients: water, yeast, barley, and hops.  Beer is beer.  It’s just brewed in different ways.  There’s no wonder what’s inside the bottle, unlike soda.

3)     General disinterest.  There have been no complaint letters from people wanting to know the nutritional value of the beer they drink.

4)     Technically there is no nutritional value.  Like tea.  Or water.

Here’s that side by side comparison:

12 oz. can of Coca Cola

Nutritional facts: 140 calories, 50 mg sodium, 39 grams of carbs, 39 grams of sugar

(over time is the equivalent of smoking 3.5 cigarettes)

Health benefits: none

Drug ingredient: caffeine

12 oz. bottle of Killian’s Irish Red

163 calories, 13 mg sodium, 13.8 grams of carbs, 0 grams of sugar

Health benefits: decreases risk of heart disease, improves bone density, flushes kidneys, reduces blood clotting

Drug ingredient: alcohol

They both have essentially the same number of calories.  But Coke contains about 3.5 tablespoons of sugar and unknown, unnatural, and unpronounceable ingredients.  Plus added caffeine, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Whereas Killian’s Irish Red has no sugar (it’s been naturally converted to alcohol) and contains only familiar, natural, and pronounceable ingredients.  Plus several health benefits, and that’s obviously a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, cheap food with little to no nutrition almost always costs less than food that is actually good for the human body:

Cost of a 12 pack of Cokes: around $4

Cost of a 6 pack of Killian’s: around $6

Granted, not everyone can handle alcohol.  Whether they have a family history of alcoholism, an addictive personality, a lack of self-control, or a moral opposition (Baptist, Church of Christ, Mormon, Muslim, etc.). Fortunately, I don’t.

When I look at the comparison it’s pretty obvious which way I’m gonna go.  I choose the healthy option.  Knowing that too much of anything is never healthy.  “Drinking responsibly” takes on a whole new meaning.

No matter how you look at it, choosing what to drink is a moral decision.





Religious Views on Facebook Profiles

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds

It’s interesting to see what people list as their “religious views” on their facebook profiles if they are Christians. Some just simply list “Baptist” or “Protestant”. And many, in an effort to creatively avoid a label, list something like “saved by grace” or “in Christ alone”. And that’s cool.

I’m sure for others, summing it all down to one phrase can be difficult, especially for those who believe in God but not necessarily that Jesus is the only way to Heaven as the Bible teaches and as Jesus himself proclaimed. They are not Christians. But they are not atheists either.

For me, simply listing myself as a Christian is a struggle. Because “Christian” has become somewhat of a watered-down generic term, thanks to the way many non-Christians and non-Americans perceive Christians.

I’m quite familiar with the fact that often non-Christians see Christians as selfish hypocrites, as non-Christians often use some of our worst specimens (or those who claim Christianity) as the model for all of us.

And from a non-American perspective (especially non-Catholic and non-Protestant countries), everyone in America is a Christian. They see influential American pop stars and their famous lifestyles and assume that is Christianity. Britney Spears is suddenly the epitome of what all Christians stand for.

I am a Christian. And I don’t believe that I am better than any person in this world nor do I believe that Christians are better people than any other religious group of people. If anything, I feel quite inferior to most people on this earth. I strive for a more giving spirit, like the kind I see in those who have much less than I do.  I’ve got a long ways to go.

I belong to a Baptist church. That means my ultimate goal in life is to introduce others to Jesus as the only way true to eternal life, by showing them love and truth. And I believe that being baptized is an important outward symbol of the surrendering of my life to God, as Jesus did.

The Baptist denomination best resembles overall what I believe.

But there are some things about the Baptist culture I stray from. For example, I don’t oppose the reasonable consumption of alcohol or feel it’s taboo for a Christian to drink. Yet I share the all the same major spiritual doctrines as Baptists. Therefore I’m a little bit Presbyterian. (My wife and I were married in a Presbyterian church.)

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And though as a Baptist I’m very aware that I can’t earn my salvation by anything I do on my own, I’m a little bit Catholic because I believe salvation in Christ is more than just saying a prayer for Jesus to save me and then saying “I got saved” and then going to church.

My faith does require “works” in order to prove my faith to be genuine and alive; by serving others- caring for the poor, helpless, lonely, and misunderstood. Because that’s what Jesus was all about.

And that’s something that perhaps has best been taught to me through some of the examples of some of the Catholic saints and missionaries I’ve heard and read about, the most obvious being Mother Teresa.

It troubles me that many Baptist churches are so good about making sure no one in the congregation leaves the service without being given the opportunity to “become a Christian” by saying “the sinner’s prayer”. But afterwards, these confused spiritual infants are often left without being nurtured through discipleship.

Not understanding that so much of their sought-after Heaven is just as much in this life as it is the next. And that it takes serving others to help bring Heaven to Earth.  I really like the way that over the centuries that Catholics have chosen some of the most humble servants as their legendary heroes. Of course I don’t pray to saints, but I’ve learned to admire and attempt to mimic their lifestyles.

I’m a little bit Jewish because I share the Old Testament with the Jews. The Old Testament actually makes up around 2/3’s of the Bible’s content. And of course I don’t eat pork or shellfish (or many other kinds of carnivores, predators, and “bottom feeder” animals) as God instructed the Jews in Leviticus 11.

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I’m a little bit Seventh Day Adventist. They are the health nut freaks of Christianity. Most of them are vegetarians and avoid processed foods and the consumption of sugar (except in the form of whole fruits). Seventh Day Adventists also have a better understanding of resting “on the Sabbath”.  And statistics show they live around 7 years longer than the rest of us believers.

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So that is my religious status.

When all that is thrown into a blender, arguably it could be said I am closest to being a Baptist who unofficially converted to Messianic Judaism.

Messianic Jews are of Hebrew heritage but unlike other Jews, they accept Jesus as the Messiah. And though I have still yet to prove that somewhere back in my Italian lineage there was a Jew in there (my Mexican grandmother is convinced that’s the case), a person without Hebrew heritage can still convert to become a Messianic Jew.

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Maybe I should just list my religious views as “It’s Complicated”.