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, 


Foto: reprodução/Facebook 

Choosing Betterment over Bitterness

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


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, or post a comment.

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


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:

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


Four Characteristics of Potentially Great BJJ Instructors


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.

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



The Reluctant Pray-er


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


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


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.


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

How BJJ Has Helped Me.



I have been practicing the art of goal-setting since I got back on the mats. Thirteen years ago a friend invited me to check out his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy. My friend became my sensei and I got hooked in the gentle art. Then, a severe back injury and two family tragedies forced me out of the mats. I never thought I’d be able to roll again. 

I finally felt ready emotionally and physically to get back on the mats. After much prayer and reflection I decided to visit Gracie Humaita in La Mesa, CA. I met my new sensei (who has become a really good friend) last August. With his encouragement and, primarily, divine enablement, I decided to give it another try. It was a total of seven years away from the art. I probably would have been at least a brown belt by now, but I do not regret my time off. The primary reason is that I learned to set and manage my goals, something I have been using not only in my BJJ game, but in other areas of my life. 

My first objective, when I stepped into a dojo again last August was simply to not get hurt. It was agonizing to see the inversions and berimbolos of my teammates. With a ruptured disk in my spine I quickly decided to defend my guard the old way. 

My second goal was to get back in shape. I am now in my mid-thirties, and for virtually seven years I did nothing to prevent the extra pounds. It’s been great to see them shed. 

My third goal was to adapt my game to a new reality (adaptation is a fundamental of BJJ). So far I have been able to incorporate “smash and pass.” This was not my strength before my injury. 

My fourth goal is to maintain consistency. Since competition is out of the question (at least for now) I can focus on the self-defense aspect of the game and maintain regularity in training.

My final goal is progress at my own pace. I used to think that if I didn’t get a belt promotion in a year something was wrong with me. Not anymore. I learned to never measure myself against the progress of others.

Dusting off that old Gi really paid off. I have been more disciplined in other areas of my life, too. I also found that I have been able to reach my personal and professional goals, one task at a time. 

Learning proper goal-setting was one of the benefits I got from BJJ. How has BJJ helped you? 

Always Faithful, Part I

Always Faithful, Part I

 ImageAmerican military history fascinates me. The invasion of Iowa Jima in 1945 was a turning point in the war in the Pacific. Besides the air assault and pre-invasion naval bombardment, on Feb 19 of that year, Marines from the 4th and 5th division landed on the beaches of the remote island. The Americans knew their mission very well: Put to practice the amphibious landing for which they had trained, storm the area and secure the air strip; all under fire from Japanese armies hidden in underground caves.

The Marines knew that during their mission many would fall, but they had vowed to be always faithful, or Semper Fidelis, their motto until this day. Were it not for the faithfulness of these men, we would live in a very different society today, I am convinced. What a great example to us believers; we are to be Always Faithful

Here’s the story of a man who was not always faithful.  

The book of Jonah is an autobiography, written in third person (not uncommon in the Old Testament). The author is not a mythological figure, like some critics of the Bible like to affirm. Jonah was a prophet during the time of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25), a fact confirmed by Jesus himself (Matt. 12:39). 

Jonah’s purpose for writing his autobiography is to address a nation in spiritual decay and under a leadership crisis during the monarchy. Spiritual instability was the natural outcome of the bad influence of wicked kings. The invasion of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) by Assyria is future during the composition of the book, but later captives (the original readers of Jonah) would be encouraged to learn that God is sovereign even in times of calamity.

Even though Jonah is far from being the hero of the story, we must recognize his humility in recording his shortcomings. Everybody else in the book obeys God (the storm, the fish, the plant in chapter four, the sailors, and even the Ninevites). The very one called for a lifetime of obedience struggles with submission to God.  

The book of Jonah is not about the big fish, but about the big God, who controls nature and is compassionate even towards wicked people. He is not willing that any should perish.

The author starts by saying that the Word of the Lord came to Jonah. Could this be an example of Christophany? Coming and saying are attributes of a person. Whether or not this was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ, the message was clear enough; so much so that the prophet reacted negatively.

God gives Jonah a mission: The commissioning of the prophet includes three imperatives. His mission is clear: arise, go and preach. Like a soldier receiving his briefing, Jonah receives his marching orders.         

Can you feel the tension rising? Jonah is thinking: “Lord, this is not the proper way of Gentile outreach. Remember, you told us to stay in the land and obey” (Isaiah 42:6). No one else in the Old Testament is specifically told to go to a foreign land. Daniel and Esther are examples of “forced” missions in a distant country. Jonah does not want to go. He could argue he could serve the Lord in the comfort of his own country. Ministry was needed there, too.        

God gives Jonah a message: The prophet was to utter a message of condemnation in Nineveh. The Ninevites were Assyrians, known for their brutality. POWs were normally tortured and their heads impaled in spears and given to the children of the conquered army to parade around the city. Jonah knew that they would not do any differently with him. Isn’t that how we feel about the mission field sometimes, even in our own backyard? We know we need to share the Gospel, but for some reason we think that we’ll be eaten alive by the sinner.

Jonah is already thinking of ways to get out of his duty. God tells Jonah that it is time for the Ninevites to settle accounts with their Creator, and guess what Jonah: YOU are going to deliver the news.

The prophet was on ambassador duty. Ambassadors are not to change the message or “water it down” so as to not offend the hearers. This was no time for a conversation, but for declaration. It was a short message (see Jonah 3:4). 

As a believer, what messages are we to carry? 

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc