Monthly Archives: September 2012

Baking Up The Sermons

My cousin and me recently made a visit to Costco.

We were casually going through the aisles until we hit the pastry section.

Immediately, we were mesmerized by the smell of fresh baked goods.

We were kids in a candy store, wanting to take everything home.

We settled on a mixed batch of cookies consisting of chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, and oatmeal raisins.



After putting the batch into our cart, my cousin made the following the comment:

“Its so difficult to find the motivation to bake cookies, when it’s so easily accessible through Costco.”

I wasn’t sure where she was coming from, so I asked her to elaborate.

“Well for me it’s so much trouble to go buy the materials, prepare it, and then wait for it to be ready”.

“Sometimes I go through all that trouble and my batch isn’t even good as the ones at Costco.”



My cousin had a point.

Why go through all that trouble, when you don’t have to right?

Most of the people that I know, don’t have enough time to do all the things they want to do.

Why waste time when you already don’t have enough time?

Life is about prioritizing what’s important and sometimes baking doesn’t always make it to the top of the list.



The only reasons I can think of, in which a person actually prefers baking cookies over buying them is:

1. Their batch is superior in taste and quality compared to the bought ones.

2. Their batch is considerable cheaper when you factor in time and materials invested.

3. They aren’t in it for superior quality or saving money, but rather they just enjoy the process of baking.

Intrinsically, you have to derive some type of benefit or else why would you choose the harder route?



This weekend I talked briefly with a friend I haven’t seen for a very long time.

She told me she recently transitioned from finance to going to school at Le Cordon Bleu.

I never asked her why she wanted to be a pastry chef, but I can see the above reasons applying to her.

Reason #1 applies to her because you got to have self-confidence in your creations and believe that they are of the highest quality.

Reason #3 applies to her because it’s impossible to make a career out of baking if you can’t enjoy yourself in the kitchen.



People ask me all the time, “Why don’t you go to the church anymore?”

I never really knew the real answer, so I made something up:

“The Catholic Church has too many rules and regulations.”

“I don’t get anything from going to mass anymore.”

“I look around at all the people in church who pretend to be holy and I lose faith.”



In the end, all those answers were insufficient because I felt like taking them back the moment I said them.

The truth is, the Catholic Church is good.

I do get something from going to mass.

Others only affect my faith, because I let them.

But still, I haven’t found a reason for my lack of motivation to attend weekly mass.



That is until now.

I stopped going to church because I wanted more than what was being offered to me at church.

For me, the most important of part of mass is the sermon.

It’s the one part that personally bridges my life to the life of Jesus Christ and all that happened before and after his life.

Everything else is simply ritual repetition with small deviations depending on where we are at in the Catholic liturgical year.



For close to 30 years of my religious life, I was like my cousin who finds it easier to buy cookies then to make them.

She goes to Costco, she finds her cookies, she eats it, and moves on with her life.

I go to Church, I get my sermon, I think about it, and then I move on with my life.

Every Sunday for 30 years, I have gone through this same routine.

I realized this same routine was cutting it for me anymore.



I took myself out of the church, because I realized that I depended on the church so much I felt like I was spiritually complacent.

I grew spiritually complacent because I knew that my Pastor will feed my soul every Sunday.

I was so busy with everything else in life that I didn’t even try to make more time for my soul than the bare minimum.

The bare minimum for any practicing Catholic is a 1 hour devotion to God every Sunday.

Because the church only required 1 hour of my life, that’s all I gave to God.



But removing myself from church didn’t exactly help me spiritually.

What has helped me spiritually after leaving the church, is learning how to bake just like my friend.

Instead of going to costco and buying cookies, she “bakes up” her own batch of cookies.

For me, instead of going to church and receiving the sermon, I “bake up” my own sermons.

I found the process of “baking up” my own sermons more rewarding than just receiving the sermon at church.



When a pastor “bakes up” a sermon, he sits down and reads the bible.

He asks himself, “How can I make this bible passage relevant to my audience?”

He does research and tries to come up with some stories, jokes, and props to engage the audience.

He brainstorms, makes multiple drafts, and might ask others to critique his work.

When he believes it is good enough, he delivers it on Sunday.



I go through a similar process and once I’m done, I usually put my findings in a blog.

In fact, all my personal sermons that I have ever “baked up” go directly into this blog.

I do this not because of reason #1 (I believe my sermons are way better than the pastor.)

Nor do I believe that I fit under scenario #2 (I probably invest way more time than a pastor does. He’s definitely more efficient than me.)

I do this because of reason #3 (I simply enjoy the process of “baking up” my own sermons every week.)



For me the “baking-up” a sermon process is a spiritual process.

It encourages me to be proactive in my spirituality instead of waiting to be “fed” by the pastor every Sunday.

True, I may spend way more time coming up with these sermons when compared to the pastor’s preparation time.

But my priority is spirituality, so the fact that I spend so much time preparing, is actually a benefit not a drawback.

I’m not wasting time, I’m actually investing it.



Before, I might’ve told myself to just get the hour of mass over so I can do what I really want to do.

Now, I might spend 1, 3, or 5 hours on my own sermon until I’m satisfied with the result.

This may only apply to me, but I definitely enjoy the process of “baking-up” my own sermons because I am more involved.

I could always revert back to going to church and receive the pastor’s sermon weekly, that would be so easy.

The only reason why I persist down the hard road is because I just find it way more rewarding when I’m the one baking up the sermons.

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Something Inside of You

There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It only feels alive when you can do more than someone else.

“All day baby. All day. You know you can’t guard me.”

“That win was so easy. I didn’t even have to try.”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It enjoys making others inferior, so you can feel superior.

“Are you dumb? How come you don’t know that?”

“This is so easy even a 5th grader can do it. And you’re having trouble with it?”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It likes to equate who you are with what you have.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be happier when you get a new car. I promise.”

“I just lost all my money in the stock market. My life is over.”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It takes everything that happens personally and then over-reacts.

“She purposely didn’t say Hi to me. What’s her problem …”

“John hasn’t text me back since I texted him 15 mins ago. Is he upset with me?”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It likes to drop names, hoping that the association with important people will make you feel more important.

“I only do make-up for A-List celebrities such as Katy Perry and Ellen Degeneres.”

“Of course, I know John. We go way back. I’m one of the reason he is so big now. I showed him everything he knows.”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It enjoys wanting so much, it never stops to enjoy what it has attained.

“I’m so blessed to have so much in my life, but you know what would make it even better … a job that allows me to travel.”

“My closet is full of Air Jordans. I have enough to wear one pair everyday of the year. OMG, they’re coming out with a new one next month! Must camp overnight to be the first one to get it.”



There is something inside of you, that is inside all of us.

It relentlessly find ways to keep you away from happiness.

It keeps you busy with trivial matters, so you might overlook all the important stuff.

That something which is inside of you and everyone else, it is called the ego.

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Staring at My Own Food

My friends have been noticing that every time I eat, I tend to stare at my food.

They think its weird.

What do I think about this weird habit of mine?

I don’t even know what to think.

Because I didn’t even realized I stared at my food until someone pointed it out.



Of course, after some quiet time, I’ve finally gotten it figured out.

I stare mainly because deep down, I’m contemplating.

Food should be simple, you just put it in your mouth a chew.

What is there to contemplate?

Plenty, I assure you.



Well for sure, I’ve noticed that whenever I stare at my food, I’m less likely to overeat.

Perhaps I’ve lost my appetite after waiting for so long.

Perhaps staring at the food, gives it time to cool down and become less appealing.

I ask myself, “Do I really need more?”

And after some time, the answer is usually no.



When I stare at food, I acknowledge the power that lies in every bite I take.

Depending on what I eat and how much of it I eat, I could double my weight in a year.

I could physically and emotionally transform myself into another person.

I could imprison myself in my own home.

I could become addicted to food and use it as a source of pleasure.



I know it could happen to me only because I have seen it happen to others.

Food should not be taken lightly.

Food can literally make you or break you.

I stare because I care.

I’m going to respect my body by being careful on what food goes in my mouth.



People have different thoughts on food.

Some thoughts encourage a healthy lifestyle while others don’t.

“I always have room for dessert.”

“Never waste any food, finish it all.”

Are two that encourages overeating.



I have observed that many people don’t like to waste food.

They finish 3/4 of their dish and stop because they are full.

Someone usually a parent or a friend in the same table, says “You can’t waste that, finish it!”

And the person who is already full, slowly stuffs the rest of the dish into his mouth.

How does this make any sense at all?



Somehow not wasting food has become more important than my health.

If I make “not wasting food” a habit, soon I’m going to become over-weight.

And everyone knows that being over-weight comes with a ton of health complications.

I’d rather waste food, then end up in a hospital one day.

Why are we even debating this, the answer should be obvious.



Another thing some people say, “I’ve always got room for dessert”.

Doesn’t that sound cruel?

So even if you are full and your stomach can’t fit anything else, you’ll continue forcing food down?

Why would you do that to yourself?

If your stomach is already full, cramming more food down there will only make it expand to accommodate more food.



And guess what happens next time you decide to eat again?

You’ll have to eat more to fill up your stomach.

Last time you stuffed it with so much food, your stomach has been stretched beyond its normal size.

Now it’ll take even more food to fill it up.

This is exactly how people become overweight.



Now for views that encourage healthy eating.

“We should treat food like it is medicine.”

“Be present while you eat.”

Both require us to look at food from a different angle.

Both can make a difference if you allow it to.



I think food should be treated like medicine.

Medicine has powerful effects on the human body both positive and negative.

Therefore, you need a prescription in order to buy medicine.

Included with the prescription is how much you should consume and other warnings.

Without these warnings, people could over-dose unintentionally and die.



Food is just as dangerous if not more dangerous than medicine.

Food can heal and nourish you, but if you’re not careful it can also lead to diabetes, heart attacks, and obesity.

The reason why food is even more dangerous than medicine is because it is so easy to come by.

You think food is harmless, so you let your guard down.

You start to use and abuse it which eventually leads to your downfall.



Another thought of mine is whenever you eat, be present.

You’re going to overeat if your mind is wandering somewhere else.

When you are watching a tearjerker movie with a tub of ice cream in your lap, your attention is on the movie.

What’s stopping you from eating the whole tub?

Nothing, because your mind is focused on the movie.



Being present just means you don’t have anything else on your mind besides the food in front of you.

You give food attention because of the importance it plays in your life.

Food is a game changer and it should be treated as such.

If you learn to respect food, food will nourish you.

If you overlook the importance of food, food will hinder and hold you back from living a fulfilling life.

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Not Even Here

I’ve been hanging with my friends often.

And more than once, someone has said following to me:

“You know, I don’t even notice you are here man.

It’s like you’re not even here.

You okay man?”



And I usually answer with:

“Yeh, I’m perfectly fine, nothing wrong here.”

With a big smile.

They usually go back to talking and socializing with everyone.

And I go back to my own reserved, quiet self.



I’m reading this book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.

It says that everyone is trying so hard to stand out and differentiate themselves from everybody else.

We are obsessed with wearing the newest brands.

We try to get into exclusive events.

We strive to be the center of everyone’s attention.



There’s nothing wrong with feeling special and different, because everyone is special and different.

But when it becomes compulsive and you start to feel inferior when others don’t notice you.

Then perhaps there is a problem lurking beneath the surface.

The author prescribes the following to remedy the incessant need to always standout.

Do the opposite of standing out.



Blend in, don’t try so hard to stand out, be there without drawing attention to you.

The trick is to do it willingly.

There will be a part of you that rebels and say’s this is wrong.

It will make you feel extremely uncomfortable.

It won’t allow you to just blend it.



Of course you will meet resistance.

You’ve spent your whole life being brain-washed by everyone that standing out is better than blending in.

All that thinking become habitualized.

Your job is to program your brain to think otherwise.

And that just means continuous repetition of the newest message, until that too becomes a habit.



The power in willingly wanting to blend in communicates the following message:

That it is perfectly fine not to stand out all the time.

That you are loved just the way you are whether everyone is giving you attention or not.

That you being who you are right now is perfect, without the need of trying to be more.

Everything is already good and even if I don’t do anything at this moment, everything will continue to be good.



This is what I’ve been practicing in the company of friends.

Just being quiet until I’m spoken to.

Not needing to dominate the conversation with others to show how knowledgeable I am.

Allowing others to have their moment in the spotlight without feeling inferior or envious of them.

Being okay with losing an argument, even if it make me look bad in front of people I think highly of.



In the end, what this looks live from the outside is me not even there.

But inside, I am there.

I know exactly what’s happening on the outside and the inside.

I can freely choose to communicate without needing to stand out.

If the situation doesn’t require anything of me, I’m perfectly fine with just blending in.



It’s okay to stand out.

But it is equally okay to not stand out.

It shouldn’t be a sin to blend in.

But it can be a sin, if we make it into our own personal sin.

We are always love-able whether we decide to stand out or blend in.

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Focus = Growth

People say whatever you pay attention to it grows.

For example, if you focus your attention on the negative things in your life, more likely than not you will encounter more and more negative things in life.

Poor people get into worser debts and liars keep on lying to cover up their lies.

The opposite holds true for people who are positive.

People with tons of friends have no trouble making more friends and people who rise to leadership roles have no trouble moving up wherever they go.



It’s similar to the Bible passage Mt 13:12 that says, “For whoever has, it shall be given to him, and he shall in abundance.”

Its as if once you’ve trained your brain to do something, it naturally goes about doing it regardless of whether you are aware of it or not.

I recently saw this theory unfold while I was shooting on a set with John Bich Sy Vuong.

John is the owner and shooter at Blue Angel Photography.

He asked me to come along to help him with a family portrait shoot.



As photographers, we love to setup the setting, lighting, and subjects to coincide with our vision.

Since the family portrait shoot consisted of a family of five (father, mother, 2 boys, and a girl) the photographer’s job is to pose this family of five in the most heartwarming way.

Normally, a shoot would typically last 3-4 hours, but ours lasted 6 hours

This was due to an unforeseen challenge that always pops up in every shoot.

Only this time, the unforeseen challenge happened to be a 4 year old.



The boy wasn’t too happy at that moment.

He wanted to watch his cartoons or get on the computer to play his games.

He didn’t like the fact that we were in his home either, these two strangers with big photographic equipments.

The fact that all his family was looking at him disapprovingly, didn’t help his state of mind either.

So when we asked him to pose for us, he wasn’t going to oblige.



First, it began with defiance.

He would run around, go find some food, and fidget during the whole shoot.

Then, when we forced him into a certain pose for the next shoot, he decided that he had enough and expressed his frustration the only way a 4 year old knows how.

He cried.

He cried and he cried and when he wasn’t crying, he made sure to communicate his displeasure with a sour face.



His dad was extremely frustrated with his son.

He yelled, he threatened, and even tried bribery.

None of it worked.

Soon the dad was just as frustrated as his kid.

Great, now we have two unhappy family members.



At that moment, John the main photographer stepped in to intervene.

Family members with sour looking faces don’t make good pictures.

Not to mention that his reputation is on the line.

Who would want to book a photographer who take pictures of family members with sour faces?

Anybody could do that, John got the job because he was known to be better than just anybody.



John’s method of intervention was actually very creative.

Instead of allowing everyone’s frustration to escalate, he directed everyone’s attention to something else.

He started with the kid.

He gave the kid a little bell with stick.

He asked the kid to hit it as hard as he could.



As the boy was enjoying his new toy, John asked everyone to applaud.

“Hey look at him, he knows how to play an instrument. That’s awesome!”

Everyone played along and started clapping, even the father.

In a matter of minutes, the atmosphere within the house changed from one of frustration to one of applaud.

With the boy’s focus on the bell, John gave it to me and asked me to move behind him while he was taking pictures.



The boy kept on looking at the bell.

He wasn’t in a sour mood anymore.

He was anticipating the next time he could get his hands on the bell.

And just like that, John started shooting away.

After a couple of shots, he would ask me to give the bell to the boy to satisfy his curiosity and we were good to go again.



John ended up getting all the pics he needed.

John turned the tides into his favor through the rule of “focus”.

Whatever you focus on, its gets bigger.

When the boy was in a sour mood, everyone started focusing on the boy’s bad behavior.

The father started yelling at him, threatening him.



Everyone’s eyes were on him, waiting for him to get in place so they could be done with the shoot.

The boy already didn’t want to be there in the first place, but now that everyone unhappy with the him, it made him feel worst.

When you focus on the boy’s negative aspects, it makes him feel worse, and when he feels worse you can’t expect him to put on a smile.

He cries, he throws a fit, he sits in the corner feels bad about himself.

But look what happens when John started to ask everyone to focus on the positive.



Give the boy a toy that he can play with and ask everyone to encourage the boy when he plays with it.

Clap for the boy, hug the boy, and praise the boy.

Do anything to make him feel that he is doing a good job.

The boy felt good about himself and he also felt everyone around him was happy with him.

It was much easier for the boy to put up a smile now that he is in a good mood.



When you focus on the positive of what the boy can do, he feels positive.

When he feels good and we encourage the family to praise the boy, the boy feels good about everyone.

So now, whenever anyone ask him to do anything, he happily obliges.

When you focus on the negative, your attention feeds the negativity and it grows.

When you focus on the positive, your attention feeds the positivity and that grows.

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