Sunday, June 10, 2012

Puerto Rico - La Isla del Encanto: People


So I've described some of the beautiful places I saw and yummy food I ate while in Puerto Rico in the last two posts. Now, I've saved the best for last!

 The most enjoyable part about my trip to Puerto Rico was hands down the people I met and got to spend time with during my trip!

During my time in Puerto Rico I met a lot of awesome believers. Like this blogger (who also went on this trip) put so well, whenever we were together the atmosphere was just filled with love and joy!

"We know that we have passed out of death 
into life because we love the brothers." 
- 1 John 3:14


Like 1 John 3:14 shows, when we meet other believers who have received the Lord as their Savior and life, there is something within us that can't help but love them! Regardless of where they are on the earth or what kind of culture they grew up in, we all share a common life, God's life!

This was most definitely the case with the other Christians in Puerto Rico! It was such a loving impression to be so warmly received into their homes where we stayed during our trip. And when we had a time to fellowship with the students in the Christians on Campus clubs on different university campuses in Puerto Rico, it was such an encouragement to hear how they were enjoying and pursuing Christ in the same way we were in Austin.

The believers in Puerto Rico have found a place on my heart. Though I saw some amazing sites and ate some delicious food, the part of Puerto Rico that will continue to bring me fond and joyful memories are the precious believers I met and found to be my family away from home. The believers all over the world truly are the excellent ones on the earth.

"As for the saints who are on the earth, 
they are the excellent; 
All my delight is in them." 
- Psalm 16:3

Photo Credit: [P. Limanjaya, J. Hernandez, L. Dean, E. Roman]

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Puerto Rico - La Isla del Encanto: Food!

Continuing from my last post on some of the beautiful places I saw while on my trip to Puerto Rico, I want to dedicate this post to describe some of the yummy food I ate there.

As one who studies nutrition and really enjoys food, I was excitedly anticipating what the food in Puerto Rico would be like. It was the first tropical island I had ever visited so I didn't know what to expect. 

My First Puerto Rican Meal

My first exposure to Puerto Rican food was my first night there in the home of a couple who had some believers who lived in the same neighborhood over for dinner and fellowship once a week. This home meeting was where I had my first Puerto Rican meal which consisted of...

tostones --> which is basically mashed fried plantains. They were delicious alone or with a mayo-ketchup sauce on top.

rice and beans --> which is a staple dish in the Puerto Rican diet. It was usually cooked with some type of meat and was very flavorful. I had this dish a number of times during my trip, and every time it was a little different, but always delicious. 

salad --> the typical components of their salads included iceberg or romaine lettuce and tomato. They were always very simple yet still refreshing.


sauteed fish with purple onion --> this was probably one of the best fish I have ever had, yet the hostess who made it claimed it was just something she whipped up by frying a frozen fillet in oil with purple onion and only flavoring it with salt and pepper. There must be something special in the water there that makes the fish taste so good!

This savory meal was just the beginning to a trip full of delicious food. Some of my favorite foods that I had while in Puerto Rico included some of their breakfast foods.

My kind of breakfast

Another student and I stayed with a newly wed couple for most of our time there, and when the hostess was asking us what kinds of foods we usually eat for breakfast, one of the foods we mentioned was oatmeal. Upon hearing our response, the husband commented that his wife made really good oatmeal and even joked that her oatmeal was responsible for him gaining 10 pounds. 

 Initially we were confused. To me, oatmeal was a hearty yet healthy breakfast choice. So I couldn't understand why it made him gain 10 pounds. But the next morning, when we tasted it for ourselves, it made a lot more sense. 

This oatmeal was unlike any oatmeal I had ever tasted before. It was served with cinnamon and we added raisins on top. It was rich and sweet and oh so delicious. We learned that she made oatmeal and other creamy grain breakfast cereals (such as cream of wheat and cream of corn) with evaporated milk. This made these hot breakfast cereals some of the most rich breakfasts I've ever had. 

Mofongo by the beach

One afternoon the family we stayed with took us to a city near the northern coast, Arecibo. The hostess grew up in this city so she knew of a cave called La Cueva Ventana (meaning Window Cave). It's name comes from the appearance of looking out of a window at one of its opening. The view was beautiful! 


After visiting the cave, we had dinner at a food trailer by the beach. I had Mofongo con camerones and a piña colada. This was one of my favorite meals there. Mofongo is a very popular dish in Puerto Rico. It is made by forming fried mashed plantains to the shape of the bowl its served in and filling it with various meats and sauces. 

The one I had was filled with shrimp and a red gumbo type of sauce with onion. It can either be eaten right from the bowl or flipped upside down on a plate. The piña colada was just the refreshing icy drink needed for that hot humid evening.

Café con leche

Another unique food experience I had while in Puerto Rico was seeing the difference in how they serve their coffee. In the United States its common for people to drink coffee black or with a little milk and sugar. However, in Puerto Rico, they refer to their coffee as "café con leche," meaning coffee with milk. 
The normal ratio of coffee to milk is 1:1, meaning half coffee and half milk. This is due to the greater strength and boldness of their coffee in comparison to American coffee. When offered coffee at one of the homes I visited, the options she gave were "black" or "white." That is because with the amount of milk that is typically added, the coffee appears almost white.

A sweet finish

Its only fitting to end my post on food in Puerto Rico with my favorite sweet treat I had during my trip. Though I had many kinds of desserts there, I would have to say that my favorite was a frozen dessert called limber de coco. 

It is best described as a coconut milk flavored frozen popsicle that came in a plastic cup. As one who had never seen a limber before, I wasn't exactly sure of how to eat it. So I just squeezed it up out of the cup a little at a time and ate it like a ice cream cone. However, after observing others and looking it up online afterwards, you supposedly can flip it over so that its easier to eat. 

 Either way, it was delicious. It was sweet and creamy and perfect in the Puerto Rican heat. One of my traveling buddies even made it once she got home using a Puerto Rican cook book she purchased on the trip. So not only was this frozen treat delicious, its also simple and easy to make at home! I will definitely be trying a recipe soon :)

By the length of this post, you can tell that the food I ate while in Puerto Rico was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. However, the best part of my trip is yet to come! Keep an eye out for my final post on my trip about my favorite part, the people I met and spent time with during my time in Puerto Rico! 

See you soon!

[photo credit: Google images]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Puerto Rico - La Isla del Encanto: Places

I just returned from an amazing trip to Puerto Rico! I went with a group of students and staff from Christians on Campus student organization at UT. We got to participate in a conference our first weekend there and then we toured the island while spending time with some other believers living in Puerto Rico the following week.

This trip was abundant in unforgettable experiences, so I will be making a series of posts to share some of them with you. :)

Some of my overall impressions of Puerto Rico included

its lively people

rich tasty food 


beautiful scenery

In regards to scenery, though only 110 miles in length and 40 miles in width, the island of Puerto Rico has no shortage of places to visit and things to do. Some of the things we did and saw while on our trip included...

view from the walls of El Morro
an elegant street in Old San Juan

walking down the streets of Old San Juan and seeing the massive multilevel fortress, El Morro

view from the top peak
one of 70 kinds of orchids
stream that flowed down the mountain

hiking up the stunning tropical rainforest, El Yunque

the lush canopy of El Yunque

one of the islands we sailed to
Catamaran sail

relaxing on the Catamaran then snorkeling in the majestic blue waters of the Caribbean

getting some sun
hanging stalactites
one opening of the cave

roaming around the immense expanse of the Camuy cave

beautiful view from cliff
precariously peering over the edge
never ending blue waters in the horizon

 admiring the memorizing view from the bluff in Cabo Rojo
daunting rocks at the bottom of the cliff
happy riders on the beach
rolling waves along the trail

and taking a charming horseback ride along the beach.

The sites we saw were definitely breath-taking and unlike any place I've been to before. But it gets even better. Stay tuned for the next post on some of the delicious food that we ate while in Puerto Rico...

[photo credit: R. Hutchinson, R. Chen, J. Hernandez, A. Hernandez, L. Dean]

Thanks for posting your awesome photos!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Peeling Back the Layers

"The Bible requires more of us than any other book."

I read this quote in a morning devotional earlier this month and have been thinking about it ever since. Its quite amazing how one book can be taken in so many different ways depending on who is reading it. Why is this?

Well, firstly, what is the Bible?

"All Scripture is God-breathed..." 2 Tim. 3:16

According to this verse, the Bible is the breath of God.

"...His name is called the Word of God." Rev 19:13

And this verse shows us that that the Word of God is Jesus Christ.

"...which Spirit is the word of God." Eph 6:17
This verse says that the Spirit also is the word of God.

So from these verses, and many more throughout the Bible, we can see that the Bible is the definition, explanation, and expression of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. How then, can one read the Bible and not see God, Christ or the Spirit? This question was answered last night at a Christians on Campus Thursday Night College Meeting I attended on this very subject.

One point was on opening the four layers of our being. Whether our experience reading the Bible is positive or negative depends on how many layers have been opened while reading.

The first layer is our eyes. Practically we need our eyes to be open to read the words of the Bible. This, however, is the most superficial layer and not much is gained by just merely reading the word of God.

The second layer is our mind. This layer is a bit deeper and much more complex. With our mind we can understand the Bible. However, our mind can be a bit uncontrollable at times and has the capability of going off in a million different directions. This means that there needs to be a little effort and will power to concentrate when reading the Bible so that we can understand what we are reading.

The third layer is our heart and this layer is on an even deeper level. With our heart we can receive what we read in the Bible. The heart is many times likened to the gateway of our being. When we come to the Bible with an unturned heart, it is as if we have a veil covering us (2 Cor 3:16). So how can we turn our heart and open our being to receive what we read in the Bible? We can turn our heart by loving the Lord. By loving Him, our heart is opened and we can receive the rich life supply from the Bible.

The fourth and final layer is the deepest part of all human beings. This is the human spirit. With our human spirit we can realize what we read in the Bible. The way we open this layer of our being is by genuine prayer. By praying over what we have read as a response to what the Lord has touched us with, we can pray the Word of God into us where is becomes a nourishing element to us.

This was very eye-opening to me. In my experience, I have definitely read the Bible and felt dry or lifeless afterward.  So seeing that all of the layers of my being need to be opened in order to read, understand, receive and realize God in the Bible was so helpful and practical. My hope is to have countless experiences of being in the presence of the Lord to learn and practice opening my eyes, mind, heart, and spirit to the Bible so that I may contact God in His living Word.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Grace Received When Gathered with Others

You never truly appreciate something until after you experience what it's like living without it. Last week I was able to go home for spring break and was really looking forward to it because I hadn't been home in a long time. And much like my first experience of going home after leaving for college,  being home has become such a sweet and enjoyable time (more on why I love going home!). This time was no exception. However, there was something different about this visit for me. I felt like I was missing something that I had become accustomed to throughout my semesters at college. It turned out that this something was the necessity of gathering with other believers as a normal part of my daily Christian life.

At UT, I had become so used to gathering with believers on a regular basis at various Christians on Campus events that it hadn't occurred to me how much I needed those times. So when I went home for the break and didn't have the convenience of meeting and fellowshipping with other believers between classes or for lunch on campus, I realized how much those times really meant to me.

a meeting of believers is an exhibition of their enjoyment of Christ

Last night, at the Christians on Campus Thursday night lecture series, the topic was on The Importance of Meeting. This topic really impressed me because it clearly answered what I had experienced over my break. There were times during my break where I struggled to read the Bible by myself or to pray alone, however, when I was able to meet with other believers, I felt so refreshed and enlivened. I felt like I really experienced Matthew 18:20,

"For where there are two or three gathered into My name, there am I in their midst."

This caused me to begin to consider, what will happen to my "meeting life" after I finish college? At last night's meeting, the matter of establishing the habit of meeting with other believers while in college was emphasized. From one of the speaker's personal experience, he developed this habit of gathering with other believers while in college and believes that this is the reason why, still today, he continues this practice. This created a desire within me to pray to the Lord to establish this habit in me now, so that wherever I may find myself later in life, this habit of meeting with other believers will always be a part of my normal Christian life.

"Not abandoning our own assembling together, as the custom with some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more as you see the day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:25

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Science and the Bible" UT Seminar

     Last Friday, Christians on Campus hosted a seminar on "Science and the Bible." The speaker was a professor at UT, Dr. Ken Diller, who teaches in the Biomedical engineering department. The presentation he delivered was really clear and helped me align these two subjects in a proper way.

     As a student in the college of natural science, its not uncommon for me to hear a professor speak of evolution of man from apes as if it were an established fact. This can cause anyone to be a little confused and I would find myself struggling to relate what I was learning in class to my faith and belief in the Bible as the word of God. However, after hearing this lecture on "Science and the Bible," these two matters and how they relate to and exist with one another was made much more clear to me.

     The over all take-home message from this lecture was that "there's consistent harmony between verified science and the holistically interpreted Bible," meaning that when viewed as a whole, the Bible has no contention and conflict with hard, established scientific fact.

     What really impressed me from this lecture was a diagram shown which was entitled "Understanding Creation." Here, Dr. Diller, distinguished the two realms of the old creation and the new creation. In the old creation, there is science and the Bible. In the new creation there is God's purpose and God's economy. Within the old creation, science and the Bible were described as two different lines, each with a perspective, method and reason.

     On one hand, science can be described as having the perspective of the processes, meaning it focuses on how things change when altered. These processes are described by laws, equations and theories and are the subject of studies done by scientists. On the other hand, the perspective of the Bible is the purpose. If one wanted to find God's purpose for man or anything found in nature, this could not be found in science. This is only found in the Bible.

     The next point of difference along the lines of science and the Bible was the method. The method of science is concerned with the observable evidence or proof. Science is based on observable phenomena that can be measured, tested and manipulated. However, the method of the Bible is faith. As seen in Heb. 11:1, faith is concerning with things unseen.

The final point was the reason. While the reason for science is to explain the how, the reason for the Bible is to explain the why.


     After hearing this lecture, I feel a lot more at peace regarding the relationship between science and the Bible. Though there is undoubtedly many who would argue that there is great contention between science and the Bible, this stems from the mixing of the two lines or the attempt of trying to interconnect them. When we try to find purpose in science or even the processes in the Bible, we will just end up more confused and frustrated.

     So I am really thankful to have been able to see that science is where we find the processes, through means of observable proof, in order to find the how; whereas the Bible is where we can find the purpose, through means of unseen faith, in order to answer the why. To me, the purpose and why of nature and our human lives seems tremendously valuable. Therefore, I really treasure this opportunity to have learned more about how precious the word of God truly is. :)

for more on this...  here is another blog post on the same seminar :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some More Helpful Principles

... continuing from last post with some more juicy principles...

The next principle is...

"A straight line is not God's way."

     This section of the book, on not being discouraged when we fall, was the most encouraging and helpful section to me. It discusses the common experience of really loving the Lord and pursuing Him during a period of time, then inexplicably and involuntarily falling. But then being revived and pursing the Lord again and so on and so on. Though we may prefer a continuous and smooth pursuit of the Lord our entire life, God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). It is through these experiences of failures and falls that we discover and realize that we are not dependable or consistent. And it is through these difficult situations, though they may be contrary to our preference, that God is able to work Himself into us. Though this path may seem uncertain or shaky, we need to remember that we are in the Lord's hand. So regardless to how much our situation or experience of the Lord changes, the intention behind His hand never changes! God's hand upon us has a consistent purpose from beginning to end! This was such a revelation to me! It really shows me that my thoughts and preferences are not a match to God's ways and thoughts! But  we can ask the Lord to open our eyes to know His ways so that our thoughts may be adjusted!

Though we may want a straight path, this is not God's way.

Another principle is...

"God's riches can be experienced only by those who have been defeated."

     When I read this, all I could say was wow! This point is mentioned in relation to David's great sin and failure. Through his failure, David's spirit and heart were broken. (Psa. 51:16-17). Similarly, when we fail, we become broken. However, in God's eyes, this is truly precious. God's desire is that we experience Him and enjoy Him. But if we were to be whole, with no "hole" or entrance for God, how would He enter into us? God can only accomplish His goal through our experiences of repeated failures. But of course, this doesn't mean that we purposely fail just to say that we are helping God's goal. As mentioned in the last principle, we are in God's hand and He will allow us to fall according to His ways. So there is no need to seek out failure. However, what I really enjoyed from this point is that when we do encounter failures and falls, we can realize that this is another opportunity to really gain the Lord and to allow Him to gain more ground in our being. The more we follow the Lord, and experience Him in this way, the more we will known the sweetness and preciousness of our failures and see them as God sees them.

Only through failures can we be broken so that God has a way to enter into our being.

The last principle is...

"God's unique goal for His chosen ones is to enter into them and to mingle Himself with them."

     Finally we come to God's goal. This point is so awesome! This section mentions that man's usefulness and function in relation to God are connected to his capacity to be mingled with God! So what does it mean to be mingled with God? In Genesis 1:26 we see that man was created in God's image and according to His likeness. This gives man the capacity to be mingled with God. This mingling is of two natures, human and divine. This is likened to sugar and water. A dry cube of sugar wouldn't be the most desirous form to eat sugar in, but when mixed with water, it's flavor is released. Man's human nature is like the dry sugar cube and God's divine nature is like the water. When God is put into man, the full flavor of God is manifested! But this mingling is also two-sided. God became a man, lived on the earth, died on the cross, resurrected and ascended to become the life-giving Spirit so that God could enter man. God is in every believer who has received God's salvation, however, every believer is not also in God. The proper living of God in man and man in God expresses the mingling of the two natures. When such a living is seen by man, there is a sense of both human flavor and divine flavor. This is how man can bear the flavor and scent of God and Christ! (2 Cor. 2:15)

God in man and man in God is like the mingling of sugar in water.