Fifteen Years of Marriage

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For the past fifteen years, God taught us that love is kind and patient; love is not jealous, does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, and does not take into account a wrong suffered. We learned that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

We also learned to rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope has not disappointed us.

We built our house on the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, because its foundations are rooted firmly on the Lord. He is our refuge, in whom we rest and hope. Because he renewed our strength, we mounted up with wings like eagles; we ran and did not get tired; we walked and did not become weary.

He made us lie down in green pastures and led us beside quiet waters. He restored our souls and guided us in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. We walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but we feared no evil, for he was with us; his rod and his staff comforted us.

God was close when we were brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. As righteous people, many were our afflictions, but the Lord delivered us from them all. Yes, the Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. As the deer pants for the water brooks, so our soul pants for God. We drew near to him, and he carried us in times of distress. We learned to delight in him, and he gave us the desires of our hearts.

We concluded that we are more than conquerors; that he began a good work in us, and will carry it on until the day of Christ Jesus; and that our circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. We learned to wait anxiously for our blessed hope: the appearing of the glory our great God and savior, Jesus Christ. On that day we will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and we will meet our children again; Luana and Victor, glorified. Everything will make sense. God will wipe away our tears. Death, sorrow, separation and pain will be no more.

 

Dedê: your worth is far above jewels. Julia rises up and calls you blessed; as I also say, “many have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Thank you for fifteen wonderful years, for being my better half, my suitable helper. Your faith inspires me. Your devotion motivates me. Your meekness makes me want to be your imitator, as you are an imitator of Christ.

Love,

Pierre.

Bodas de Cristal

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Nesses quinze anos, Deus nos ensinou que o amor é paciente e bondoso; que não inveja, não se vangloria, não se orgulha, não maltrata, não procura seus interesses, não se ira facilmente, nem guarda rancor. Aprendemos que o amor não se alegra com a injustiça, mas se regozija com a verdade; tudo sofre, tudo crê, tudo espera e tudo suporta.

Aprendemos a nos gloriar nas nossas tribulações, porque sabemos que a tribulação produz perseverança; a perseverança, um caráter aprovado; e o caráter aprovado, esperança. E a esperança não nos decepcionou.

Valeu a pena ter construído o nosso lar na rocha. Caiu a chuva, transbordaram os rios, sopraram os ventos e deram contra a nossa casa, mas ela não caiu, porque tem os alicerces firmados no Senhor, a nossa torre segura. Ele é o nosso refúgio, em quem descansamos e esperamos. Porque ele renovou as nossas forças, voamos alto como águias, corremos e não ficamos exaustos, andamos e não nos cansamos.

Ele nos fez repousar em pastos verdejantes e nos conduziu a águas tranquilas. Deus restaurou o nosso vigor e nos guiou nas veredas da sua justiça por amor de seu nome. Passamos pelo vale da sombra da morte, mas não tememos mal nenhum, porque ele esteve conosco. A sua vara e seu cajado nos protejeram.

Deus se mostrou presente quando estávamos de coração partido e espírito abatido. Como justos, passamos por muitas aflições, mas o Senhor nos livrou de todas elas. Sim, grandes coisas ele fez por nós, por isso estamos alegres. Como a corça anseia por águas correntes, nossa alma anseia por Deus. Nos apegamos à mão dele, que nos sustentou em tempos de angústia.  Aprendemos a nos deleitar nele, e ele atendeu aos desejos do nosso coração.

Nesses anos juntos, concluímos que somos mais que vencedores, que ele começou uma boa obra em nós e vai completá-la até o dia de Cristo Jesus, e que o nosso sofrimento serviu para o progresso do evangelho. Aprendemos a aguardar ansiosamente pela nossa bendita esperança: a gloriosa manisfestação do nosso grande Deus e salvador, Jesus Cristo. Naquele dia, seremos transformados como num piscar de olhos, e encontraremos, depois de tanto tempo, a Luana e o Victor, glorificados. Tudo fará sentido. Deus enxugará as nossas lágrimas. Não haverá mais morte, nem tristeza, nem choro, nem dor.

Dedê: O seu valor muito excede o de rubis. A Julia se levanta e te chama de bem-aventurada; como também eu, que digo; muitas agiram virtuosamente, mas tu a todas é superior. Obrigado por quinze anos maravilhosos, por ser a minha melhor metade, minha companheira. A sua fé me inspira. A sua devoção me motiva. A sua humildade me faz querer seu seu imitador, assim como você é imitadora de Cristo.

Te amo,

Pierre

Dona Alaíde, a mãezinha do Brasil 


Até ontem Dona Alaíde era conhecida como “a mãe do Danilo.” O filho, herói em Chapecó, garantiu com a ponta do dedão do pé a classificação do seu time e levou um país inteiro à final da copa sul-americana. Essa semana o mundo viu de onde veio a bravura do Danilo. 

Dona Alaíde mostrou a todos nós que é possível esbanjar vida quando o destino nos propõe um mero existir. Antes do velório coletivo para os atletas falecidos da Chapecoense, notou o desconforto de seu entrevistador. O repórter Guido Nunes também estava de luto. Tinha perdido companheiros de profissão. A ele coube a difícil tarefa de noticiar as palavras de uma mãe brasileira, desconsolada, diante de uma tragédia tão inexplicável. 

Dona Alaíde mudou o tom da entrevista ao notar a dificuldade do Guido. Já na se preocupava mais com a própria dor. Tomou a angústia do seu próximo e se dispôs a acolher quando precisava ser acolhida. Compadecida, olheu nos olhos de seu companheiro de sofrimento e ofereceu-lhe um abraço. Fez isso porque tem vida para dar. Fez isso porque é mãe. Adotou, por um minuto, um filho que lamentava a perda de colegas. De coração despedaçado, ofereceu colo de mãe. Naquele momento, o Brasil inteiro foi abraçado. Dona Alaíde nos adotou por uns minutos. Ali, no funeral do filho, ela se tornou mãezinha do Brasil. 

Esse abraço entrou para a história. Quando vi a cena, chorei. Me lembrei da minha mãe e da minha esposa, que abraçaram quando precisavam ser abraçadas. Assim como Dona Alaíde, enxugaram lágrimas de outros segurando as próprias. Desconsoladas, consolaram. 

Sou fã de Dona Alaíde, minha mãezinha lá de Chapecó. A mãe do Danilo é a mãe do Brasil. 

Beijão, mãezinha. Peço que Deus dê a você um abraço como o seu. Que você seja consolada como consola. 

De quem chorou com você, 

Pierre. 

Foto: reprodução/Facebook 

Choosing Betterment over Bitterness

I hope to make this the preface of a book one day. Picture credit: Adriana Carolina

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In five years I became a customer of three different cemeteries. Life dealt me a severe blow when dad passed away in 2004. He and I were close, but could have been closer if it weren’t for the divorce twenty-four years before. Our friendship, now as two grown men, was starting to blossom when I got the phone call. His heart had given up; massive heart attack just shy of his sixtieth birthday.

Two and a half years later tragedy struck again. My newborn daughter lived for only twenty minutes, her entire life spent in my arms. Attempting to comfort her grieving mother was useless, so I just held our precious Luana close to her, long enough for a painful kiss goodbye. The feeling of total inadequacy and powerlessness tortured me.

The unthinkable happened again. Three years after losing my daughter, the life of my only son was taken from me. Victor did not survive his second surgery. His little thirteen-month old heart quit at the operating table. Taking his lifeless body from my wife’s arms was the hardest thing I had to endure, and handing over his little casket was the lowest point of my life; sorrow that defies comprehension.

What was it with me and heart attacks? Was I doomed to suffer a premature one, too? And what was this about burying my own children? That’s not the natural order of life events. Oh, and there’s that statistic. Most couples who lose children end up divorcing. I had every reason to be fearful and bitter.

I chose to be faithful and better.

I didn’t know I had a choice. I thought tragedies were meant to break you beyond repair. My familiarity with death was so strong, I didn’t realize living was an option. I determined to merely exist, but God loved me too much to let me rot inside. He gave me a sense of duty to my surviving daughter (now my only child) and to my wife, whose pain was unbelievably worse than mine. Duty became purpose and purpose became passion. I love living.

I am a Christian. I cannot imagine choosing betterment over bitterness apart from the enablement from the giver of life. Over these last few years God gave me the desire and opportunities to teach at a seminary, complete a doctor’s degree, start a second one, resurrect (and excel at) a very healthy hobby, and inspire people in the process.

In the next few months I plan to chronicle my journey from trial to triumph, from pain to passion, from sorrow to success. By doing this I hope to inspire you to not only endure, but to enlist your suffering, and choose  life over death. But let’s make this personal. Let me know your struggles (or forward this to someone who needs some encouragement). I would love to help you through your journey. Your cost? Five minutes to write me an email. Hit me up at pierregrosa@yahoo.com, or post a comment.

How to Convince Your Wife to Let You Train BJJ Five Times a Week

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If you and your wife disagree on how often you should go to the academy, read on. I learned that it is possible to have a joyous Jiu-Jitsu journey and an even more rewarding marriage. Here are some suggestions on how to recruit your wife as your number one supporter.

1- Listen to her. You need to drill this technique more than any others in the dojo. I still haven’t mastered it, but I got it right a few times. Understand that the reason she wants you home is that she enjoys your company, and needs your help with the kids or dishes. She is not planning to make you feel guilty for training, but she does need your full attention when you get home from BJJ training. So, ditch the iPad, and be all ears. Great will be your reward.

2- Negotiate. Are you able to stay home for dinner at least three days a week? Check out the morning schedule at your BJJ school. Maybe you can plan a family outing for three Saturdays of the month. Communicate to her that your family is more important, and you will earn huge training credits.

3- Encourage her to have a hobby. You probably already tried inviting her for a trial BJJ class, but martial arts is not her thing. Maybe she can take up Zumba, or ice skating. Discuss hobby options with her and be ready to invest in her well-being. A word of caution: have her read this post if her new hobby takes her away from the home too much.

These tips apply to my female readers, too. If you’re neglecting your husband, stop. He is way more important than BJJ, and may even buy you a new Gi if you practice the techniques above.

Have a balanced life. Your game is a lot better when you train guilt-free. Feel free to suggest additions to the list. Oss.

Again, a great thank you to my friend Chandra Zarate for the great picture. Check out her website:  http://chandrazaratephotography.smugmug.com.

My daughter Julia helped with some editing on this one. I love you, filha.

 

Four Characteristics of Potentially Great BJJ Instructors

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Talent is not a guarantee of success. That’s why sometimes the greatest achievers are more known for their dedication and resolve than for natural ability. This is true in sports, especially in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I am convinced that a purple belt who is not the most talented guy in the gym can become an excellent instructor and a great asset to his or her team.

If you are considering teaching the gentle art, see if any of these qualities below apply to you.

1- Great instructors-in-the-making love people. They do not use white belts for ego massage. They care genuinely for the progress of teammates and usually develop friendships outside the mat. They are known for being approachable and always eager to help.

2- Future great senseis are the first to arrive at the dojo. They check in 20-30 minutes early and ask the front desk if anything needs to be done, be it folding Gis, vacuuming, or filing student cards. No job is below their rank. They are known for their servant attitude and dependability.

3- Excellent instructors-to-be stay late. They drill the techniques of the day after class. They may even ask lower ranking guys to show them a different twist on the moves of week. Exchange of ideas is a hallmark of these guys.

4- Teachers-in-training are loyal to their professor. They have no tolerance for gossip. Even though they are customers paying for a service, they understand there is a code of honor to be followed. If a disagreement with the professor arises, they seek to resolve things with integrity, rather than create division.

Let me hear from you if these qualities describe you. Let’s get the conversation going. Oss.

Photo: Chandra Zarate Photography, used with permission. chandrazaratephotography.smugmug.com

From left to right: Geoffrey Alegria, Lenny Zarate, Steve Steward, Fernando Lopez and Robert Hernandez.

 

 

The Reluctant Pray-er

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The hardest prayer I have ever uttered was, “God, teach me to die to self.” According to the Bible, putting self to death is the key to spiritual maturity (see Matthew 10:38). Except for Jesus, no one exemplifies the execution of self better than Paul. Not wanting to be a hindrance to the gospel, the highly educated apostle decided to know nothing among the Corinthians, except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). He sacrificed the power of his eloquence, so others might understand the simplicity of the cross. Embracing self-sacrifice for the sake of others is a recurring theme in his first letter to the Corinthians, and the application of the ministry of Christ, who gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

How do I die to self in a culture that preaches, “kill to self”? I suspect this is not just a dilemma for me but for many maturing believers who desire to be true imitators of Jesus. Am I willing to sacrifice my rights, so that others may come to Christ? I stumble upon my own tendency for self-preservation, when the Bible teaches me self-denial. One of my seminary professors stated it like this; “the putrid stench of mortification precedes the sweet aroma of sanctification.”

Church history provides several examples of faith heroes who put self to death so others can live. I am reminded of Robert Jermain Thomas, a welch linguist and missionary, who traveled to Korea in 1866 to distribute Bibles. He handed a copy of the Scriptures to his executioner moments before his martyrdom. Mockingly, a local soldier used the pages of that Bible as wallpaper, which caused his house to become a church, years later. Revival broke out in Pyongyang, and today many Koreans are in heaven because Rev. Thomas sacrificed his comfort and safety.

We may never be called to bring Bibles to dangerous places, but we must learn to articulate the gospel. Becoming a soul winner demands the surrender of our desire for acceptance – so others can live. As a pastor, I must sacrifice the convenience of a cozy office to seek lost sheep. I must equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and in the process kill the recognition my flesh craves.

If only these things were easy to do! Putting self to death is not natural. It requires divine enablement. So I pray reluctantly: “Lord, teach me to die to self so others can live.” I hope this is your prayer, too.

Picture:   Robert Jermain Thomas.

Inspiring your BJJ Teammates

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My journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has never been more fulfilling. I do not hold IBJJF or ADCC titles (second place twice was my best accomplishment in tournaments). I do not travel the world hosting seminars, and I do not own a gym, and, like most people, I pay to train. Yet, there are only a couple of things that bring me more joy than to show up at the dojo five days a week.

If your passion for BJJ has dwindled, you might want to hear from a guy who, ten years ago, donated his Gis to friends and vowed to never step foot on the mat again. I let a serious back injury and two major tragedies kill my passion for the gentle art. Now, pushing 40, I have more energy, bravado, and commitment than when I started in my early 20’s… and it shows.

Much to my surprise, white and blue belts now come to me for counsel and encouragement. It started about a year and a half ago when my professor, Regis Lebre, asked me to consider teaching his fundamentals program at Gracie Humaitá in La Mesa, CA. We both knew that competition was not my thing. I agreed hesitantly, but pursuing the path of teaching BJJ was the fifth best decision I made in my life. (Comment below and I’ll tell you my first four best decisions in life).

If you’re a senior blue belt, you should discuss career paths with your BJJ professor (many BJJ professors expect you to start assisting with classes by purple belt). On another post I’ll share clues on how to determine whether or not teaching is for you. For now, I want you to consider the possibility of inspiring others in your team. I’m not talking about pulling white belts to the side after class to show them the newest move you saw on YouTube. I mean really taking the time to study every aspect of BJJ, learning the history of our sport, honoring the legacy of the Gracie family, studying Brazilian culture and even learning Portuguese (for example, why we use words like “boa,” “creonte” and “casca grossa”) in order to be the encourager in your team. You’ll discover the joy of encouragement and take your journey through the gentle art to the next level. Others will want to follow you (the true test of leadership is to look behind you to see if anyone is following).

Preparing to teach will force you to know the moves, to ask questions, and to seek knowledge from the best. Perhaps your BJJ school has a growing kids program and the professor needs a hand on the mat. Ask him how you can help, and let me know what happens. I’ll finish with a quote from William Arthur Ward:

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

Memorizing Bible Verses

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I memorized Philippians 4:6-7 by accident. One day my daughter showed me a song she had heard. The words were,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The tune was from a band that turns Bible verses into music, verbatim from the NIV and ESV (Seeds Family Worship – See Picture). Since that day I have discovered a new way to memorize Scripture, but it was month later that I decided to meditate on this particular passage.

Paul is the author. He writes to believers in Philippi in order to commend them for their exemplary Christian walk and to encourage them to keep up the good work. One of the apostle’s final thoughts is: Let your requests be made known to God; and he means that as a direct contrast to the command against anxiety.

We are not told to inform God of our requests. He already knows them. Rather, we are instructed to articulate our dependence on Him. Specifically, we are to do it by prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Our requests may not be granted, but we are guaranteed something better – the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

Uncertainty causes anxiety. Not knowing for sure whether we will get that promotion or be healed from our medical condition agitates our hearts. Only divine peace will quiet our restless souls. I remember asking God to change a particular situation, only to verify weeks later that the situation had actually worsened. But I remember experiencing the above text literally. What changed was my perspective about the problem. The peace of God guarded my heart and mind so I endured, assessed, and proceeded. I was able to make the right decisions because my mind was protected. I was able to avoid panic and worry because my heart was secured. I was given divine peace. Once again, the Word of God proved more relevant than the daily newspaper.

The supernatural peace of God is available to you, too, my praying friend. I invite you to spend less time worrying and more time verbalizing your dependence on Him. Don’t know how to start? How about memorizing Philippians 4:6-7?

Let me know what techniques do you use to memorize Bible verses.

Uma Força Missionária no Sul Global

 

dscn4428Para quem tem interesse no assunto, segue o link do meu artigo recentemente publicado pela Fides Reformata, jornal acadêmico do instituto presbiteriano Mackenzie. A versão em Inglês será publicada em Janeiro de 2017 pelo jornal Evangelical Missions Quarterly.

Confira:

http://cpaj.mackenzie.br/fidesreformata/arquivos/edicao_39/artigos/278.pdf

Foto: Eu e “Carlinhos,” membro da tribo Sataré-Mawé na amazônia Brasileira.