Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I'm Tired

Since this cartoon was inspired by a workout at Vision Quest, I thought it might be appropriate to blog it on the eve of the day this amazing gym closes. (Although since it's midnight now, it's technically the morning of the day it closes.)

My friend Tyler (see more about him here) was guiding me through a challenging workout, and we were using one of the two very large tires in the gym. I commented that I was tired out, and was amused by the irony of being tired working out on tires. It made me think of monster trucks. The drivers work those tires (and trucks) really hard. If they were alive, they might be tired on their tires sometimes.

This was before I actually started losing weight, so I was tired out a whole lot easier than I am now.

"I'm Tired"
© April 9, 2013 
Steven Sauke

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bonnie's Story

My aunt wanted to share her story, and I suggested that I could do a guest blog. This is the first time I've done this on my blog, so here she is...


I was born into God’s family when I was 6 or 7 years old - my Mom led me to the Lord.  I grew up a PK – my Dad took his first pastorate when I was 4 years old and he served 5 churches in the Evangelical Free Church, in Alberta, British Columbia and Montana.

My adult life is somewhat a Cinderella story – I can also relate very well to the story of “Joseph” and the sadness that was in his life.  When I got married we had 4 years together and I suddenly found myself a widow at 26 years old.  My husband Randy Rusk was killed instantly by a drunk driver in Missoula, MT.  I wish I could have had more time to mature and do life with him before that had to happen.  It is such a special time in our lives to be young and in love! but I know now that the night Randy was gone in a heartbeat, God came and got me that night too! where I was, and that he held me close for YEARS! – loving me and caring for me for as long as it took for me to recognize him in my life.  However, as time went by and while other people were busy doing life, I was busy coping with life and I wondered why, but when God changes our circumstances dramatically and as we pick up the pieces of our life, God can draw us to himself in a new way; time however means nothing to God! and it can sometimes take years.  We always miss those we love but God does bring us out of the pit of grief, life can be good again and we emerge from our dark tunnel changed forever as he works in our lives making our faith more personal.  Almost 20 years later I re-met Randy’s brother Vern who I hadn’t seen since Randy died – and of all the surprises in the world! – a year and a half later we were married. It’s not too many people who have a brother-in-law ride back into their life after 18 years, and become their prince!  So you never know what can happen in a day or where life will take you.

Through it all I read verses over and over trying to make sense out of it all; “Be still Bonnie and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10.  My favorite verse after Randy died, “Be not dismayed Bonnie I am YOUR God, I will strengthen you.  I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious hand” – Isaiah 41:10. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Me and I will direct your paths” – Proverbs 3:5-6.  “We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all.  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety” - Psalm 91:1&2.

I close with this thought from The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, “What God gets out of our lives and what we get out of our lives is the person we become.”  I love this verse, “'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart'”- Jeremiah 29:11&13.  I still can’t understand it all and still think of him and miss him sometimes but I believe that God takes special care of those who suffer deeply because of someone else’s mistakes.  My faith has grown so much and I am one who can tell you that he is truly a God of faithfulness, love and forgiveness as well as new opportunities.  I’m so thankful it’s not about where we’ve been, but about who we become!

Bonnie Rusk  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Testimonial

We had our last Biggest Loser finale at my gym tonight. Since Vision Quest was recently bought out by LA Fitness, they have sadly chosen to close down four branches of VQ that have an LA Fitness within a few blocks. This marks the end of an era, but a journey that I am not giving up any time soon. I was listening to testimonials tonight and wishing that I had written one to share. After I got home, I realized I can do the next best thing... Blog it!

When I was young, I struggled with my weight, but in retrospect, I don't think it was as bad as I thought it was. I remember one of my classmates in 3rd grade constantly teasing me about being fat (and any other subject he could possibly think of teasing me about). It's possible other peers teased me over the years, but that's the one I remember offhand. In any case, while I otherwise had good self-esteem, I always felt like I weighed more than I should.

My high school senior picture, 1996

Looking at this picture now, I have no idea where I got the idea that I was overweight, as I wish I weighed that little (and I'm working on it)! After graduating from high school, I attended Edmonds Community College for two years. My first quarter, I took a weight training class, and I determined that from then on, I would work out faithfully. My second quarter, I didn't take that class, but still resolved to work out every day. It didn't happen. So from then on, I resolved to take the class every quarter to force myself to work out. It worked wonderfully, and after two years, I looked like this:

I felt amazing, and more fit than I ever had. Well, maybe when I was little and had boundless energy, but aside from that...

Then I transferred to Seattle Pacific University. Those were some amazing years, and well worth the exorbitant prices they charged. But one drawback is that their cafeteria has amazingly delicious food. After two years at SPU, I had gained the weight back, and then some. In the years that have followed, I have seen my weight increase more and more. My parents tried several times over the years to talk to me about it, but it has always been a touchy subject for me. I know they meant well, and I could tell they did it because they cared and wanted me to stick around for many years to come. But somehow it unintentionally triggered a rebellious side in me. I didn't tell them that I was just as worried as they were (well, probably not AS worried, but I was more worried than I let on). Food and I have always had a wonderful loving relationship, and not having the motivation of a grade, or even access to a weight room, I didn't get much exercise aside from walking with my parents once in a while.

Two events really got to me, though. An aunt sent me a card, and inside was a typed letter warning me about the dangers of diabetes and other serious consequences of being overweight. She told me she wished she had heeded the warnings sooner, as she had struggled with it, and had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. Another time, an uncle visited from California, and one night he and I sat down in the living room and had a conversation about weight. He told me about one time when he worked in a morgue and had to prepare the body of a friend who had died from being overweight. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done. Neither the aunt nor the uncle in question had ever confronted me about anything before (that I can remember).

With my friend Bob Smiley in 2010

With my cousin Darcy in 2012

My weight was getting more and more of a serious issue. I remember once I hoped I would never get above 200 pounds. I got way over that. I don't think I ever reached 300, but I got too close for comfort.

Then in 2011, I went back to Edmonds Community College for further studies. EdCC has amazing effects on my weight. I really should go there more often. Anyway, I was studying Visual Communications, which include graphic design, photography, video and the like. My final quarter, at the beginning of 2013, I did an internship with Steve Sosa, one of my teachers. He taught me a lot about creativity and design, and I wanted to do my internship with him as he always brought out the creative side in me. In that internship, I worked with my friend Shanel, who I had had some classes with, and it was then that I met her boyfriend Tyler. I knew who he was before that, but I didn't really get to know him until then. He worked at a local gym called Vision Quest, and he was constantly passing out cards with special deals for joining the gym. The thing that really got me was, not only did I want to support a friend, but he never once talked to me directly about it. In the past, people who have confronted me about my weight (either because they cared or because they felt like making fun of me) tended to make me put up my defenses and resist. The fact that Tyler never mentioned it to me (though I heard him talking to others about the gym) was what sold me. In addition, I like to support my friends. So I asked him about it, and he gave me a coupon, which I was to present when I went in.

So at the end of January 2013, I went to Vision Quest in Edmonds, WA to check it out. I sat down with Tyler, who was on duty at the time, and we discussed my goals and how we could work on this problem. He paired me up with Mara, one of the trainers, and the two of them alternated training me. My membership came with one free training session a month, which Tyler did, and other training sessions were with Mara. I joined Mara's team, called the Savages.

Vision Quest has a Biggest Loser program, which they do three times a year. Shortly after I joined the gym, they had the finale for that Biggest Loser session, and Mara practically dragged me into the aerobics room where they had the final weigh-in, testimonials, and other festivities. One testimonial that really got to me was from Erin, who shared that people had teased her mercilessly about being overweight. It got so bad that she had very nearly committed suicide. She had joined the gym and lost a lot of weight and now felt much healthier. The support system is amazing there, and she had made friends who appreciated her for who she was and who she was becoming. One thing that really got me was that her "before" picture didn't look fat to me. Maybe it was because I was comparing it to my weight at the time. She did look much healthier than the "before" picture, though. Another person that got to me was the winner of that Biggest Loser challenge, Kathy. She had lost 100 pounds, and the difference was striking. Erin and Kathy (and many others) have both been great support and inspiration since then on the journey we've all been on.

Tyler was a great help, as he trained me as much as he could. However, he mentioned that Mara was more qualified and should be my main trainer. He still did my monthly free training sessions, though. But all good things must come to an end, and Tyler eventually decided to move on. He and Shanel later moved to San Francisco so that Shanel could pursue further classes in design.

With Tyler at their farewell
Picture by Ton Sridi, used with permission

Encouraged by Tyler, Mara, and several others, I participated in the next Biggest Loser, starting in May 2013. In that competition, I placed third, losing 33 pounds! Shortly before the end of the competition, I participated in an 18K walk. As it turned out, that was too much for me at that point, but my teammate and friend Johanna (alternately called Mama Jo and Jo Mama), who also participated in it, mentioned me in her testimonial at the end of the competition. She said that the fact that I had done it was an inspiration. I was partly flattered and partly challenged to press on with the journey.

Between that Biggest Loser and the next one, I lost more weight. The following Biggest Loser, I again placed high on the list, losing 18 pounds. Everyone at the gym was a major encouragement to me. We cheered each other on, and in many ways, we became like a big family. While Biggest Loser is a competition, we were all working together. The competition helped to motivate me to keep fighting, and the inspiration from friends helped even more. Mara was one of my biggest cheerleaders. She did some amazing things to help motivate me to work harder, but she also cared about more than just working out. She showed interest in my design skills. I did a redesign of the Savages logo, which she proudly showed off:

© Steven Sauke, 2013

But Vision Quest was bought out by LA Fitness. The new company promised not to make any major changes for 90 days, but during that time, we lost several of our amazing trainers, including Mara. I was sad to see her go, but I had to roll with the punches. (That may have been somewhat literal had I chosen to train with Eli, another trainer who enjoyed boxing with his clients.) :-) So by this time, I had gotten to know several of the trainers. I had come to respect Gareth, who I could tell was an excellent trainer. Several of his clients had scored near or at the top in previous Biggest Loser programs. Gareth turned out to be a great choice, as we lost more and more trainers, but not him. He has been a fun and challenging trainer, and he has stuck it out through everything. Now, not only do I have my former Savages to root for, but Gareth's G$ (pronounced "G Money") team has been a great team. Some of the Savages joined Team Panda, another of the awesome teams, so they've been an amazing support as well. Chris, who has been director the past few months in addition to training Team Panda, has done a great job of helping all the teams to get to know each other and strengthen our bonds of friendship and rooting for each other.

Mara in particular, but also Gareth, have worked with me as well in the area of food intake. One thing I have appreciated about Vision Quest is that they help not only with the workout aspect, but also with the intake and helping to address other factors that lead to weight gain. While I'm still a big fan of food, I'm much more careful than I used to be with how much I eat.

On April 17, 2014, LA Fitness announced that four branches of Vision Quest were closing: Edmonds, Everett, Kent and Tacoma. The remaining six branches would stay open but rebrand as LA Fitness. The closing branches all have an LA Fitness within a few blocks. While I understand LA Fitness' reasoning, it has come as a bit of a blow to all of us who enjoy the "small gym" family feel. In some ways, it's like a loss in the family. Now we all need to figure out what to do next. When I go to a new gym, will I get a trainer I know? I know some of the trainers are transferring to the nearby Lynnwood LA Fitness. How will the much larger gym, which is part of an international chain, compare to the support group I have at my small local gym? I don't know what is to come, though I have no intention of stopping, or even slowing down now that I've come this far.

Tonight we had our final Biggest Loser finale. Since the beginning of this competition, my final weigh-in revealed a loss of 14.6 pounds. 

All told, as of tonight, I have lost 74 pounds so far.

Me on St. Patrick's Day 2014
I've lost a few pounds since then, but this is pretty close to how I look now.

Tyler, Mara, Gareth, Chris, Eli, Erin, Kathy, Jo Mama and so many more people, you are my heroes. Thank you for your constant encouragement and friendship. You have no idea how much it means to me. I imagine I'd still be around right now if it weren't for this journey, but I am quite certain that you have helped lengthen my life considerably. I'll probably never know by how much.

Also, thanks to all my other (biological) family and (not biological) friends who have rooted for me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and done so much more over the years.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Fall and Rise of Jesus

Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a colt, and the people had welcomed Him with loud shouts of “Hosanna!” That was now four days ago. It was Thursday evening, and the Passover meal was all set out. Lamb, bitter herbs, vegetables, unleavened bread, wine, and more. When Jesus and His disciples were almost done eating, He broke the bread and passed it around. Then He passed the wine around. He told His disciples that the bread was like His body that was about to be broken, and the wine was like His blood. They were to remember Him as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

At this time, Jesus had some shocking news for His disciples. He said, “One of you is about to betray me!” They couldn’t believe it! Everyone wanted to know who. Jesus said to His friend Judas, “Go and do what you have to do.” Judas left, but the others thought he was just off on an errand.

As the evening went on, Jesus continued to teach His disciples. Peter promised that he would be willing to do anything for Jesus, even die. Jesus replied, “You sure about that? Before the rooster crows, you’re gonna tell people three times that you don’t even know me!” Peter was shocked. He didn’t think he would ever do that!

When they were done with their meal and their lesson, they left the house and went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus took Peter, James and John and went to another part of the garden. He told them to watch and pray, while he went off to do some praying of His own. He prayed, “Papa, if it’s all the same to You, I’d really love it if You could change what is about to happen. I can’t bear to think about it! But I know that what You want is more important than what I want, so what You say goes.” Jesus prayed some more, and then He got up and went back to the disciples, who were asleep. “What are you doing?!” He asked them. “I told you to watch and pray! You need to pray that you won’t be tempted!”

While He was still talking to them, a crowd arrived with torches and soldiers, led by Judas! So he hadn’t been on an errand! Judas had arranged a signal with the priests and soldiers, and he walked right up to Jesus and gave Him a kiss on the cheek. That was a way friends greeted each other in that culture. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Judas,” Jesus said. “You’re betraying me with a kiss?”

So the crowd led Jesus away, and the rest of the disciples ran away. But Peter doubled back and kept his distance while he followed the crowd. He didn’t want to be caught, but he could tell Jesus was in trouble. So he tracked them to the chief priest’s house. In the chief priest’s courtyard, Peter found a bonfire and sat with the people who were sitting around it keeping warm. A servant girl saw him and said, “Hey, that guy was with Jesus!”

“Who?” Peter said. “Don’t know him.”

A few minutes later, someone else recognized Peter and said, “You’re one of Jesus’ disciples.”

“Nope!” Peter said.

Another hour went by. Someone else commented, “This guy has a Galilean accent. He must have been with Jesus!”

“What are you even talking about?” Peter replied. “That’s ridic—“ And he heard it.  Rr-r-r-r-rrr!!

Jesus looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you’re gonna tell people three times that you don’t even know me!” Peter ran outside and cried. He was so ashamed that he had lied!

By this time, it was Friday morning, and the trial began. After asking Jesus some questions, the priests dragged Him before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate couldn’t find anything to charge Jesus with, but the people insisted He was a public nuisance and was making wild claims of being the Son of God. When he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, he said, “Well, that’s Herod’s territory! Take Him to Herod!” But when Herod asked Jesus questions, Jesus wouldn’t answer. The priests were accusing Jesus of claiming to be the King of the Jews, so Herod started making fun of Him. He put a robe on Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate. But Pilate didn’t want to punish someone who had done nothing wrong! But the crowd kept pressing him. He started to get worried that this would become a riot, and that could really get him in trouble with the Roman authorities. Pilate was really torn on what to do. Should he punish an innocent man to make a bunch of people happy, or should he let Him go, and maybe lose his job because he allowed a riot to happen? “What do you want me to do with him?” Pilate asked the crowd. They replied, “CRUCIFY HIM!” So finally, Pilate gave in and let them do it.

The soldiers forced a guy named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross up the hill. Along with two criminals carrying their own crosses, and a whole crowd following them, Jesus and Simon walked to the top of the hill. Jesus had been beaten pretty bad by this point, and the Romans had made a thorny crown for Him to wear. When they reached the top, the soldiers nailed Jesus and the two criminals to their crosses, and they and the priests said some horrible things to make fun of Him. It was the worst kind of bullying. But Jesus prayed. “Papa, forgive them! They have no idea what they’re doing!”

Now it was about noon on Friday, and it got really dark. As 3 PM came along, Jesus cried out, “It’s done!” Then He prayed, “Father, take my spirit.” And He died.

The centurion who was guarding Jesus’ cross commented, “Wow! This was a good man.”

Jesus’ friends and His mom were watching. While he was on the cross, he had told his disciple John to take care of Mary. Now, His friends took Him down from the cross, and a man named Joseph from the town of Arimathea offered to bury Him. By this time, it was light again, but the sunset was coming soon, and Saturday was the Sabbath. They weren’t allowed to work on Saturday, so they had to work quickly to get Jesus buried before sundown. Several women who were followers of Jesus followed Joseph to the tomb, and then they hurried home to prepare the spices to preserve Jesus’ body. But they had to stop work when the sun set because of the Sabbath.

Early Sunday morning, once the Sabbath was over, the women got up and took the spices they had prepared to the tomb. While they were on their way, they were discussing the biggest challenge to this trip. There was a big heavy stone in front of the tomb! How were they going to get it out of the way?

So they got to the tomb and discovered their first shock. Somebody had already rolled it away! They went into the cave and found their second shock. There were some empty grave clothes, but Jesus wasn’t there! Then suddenly, the cave filled with light, and there were two men wearing brilliant clothes standing with them! The women were so stunned and scared that they bowed down and looked at the ground. What happened next shocked them even more. The men said, “What are you doing looking for the living among the dead? Jesus isn’t here! He has risen!”

The women hurried back to the disciples and told them. This was a lot to take in, and neither the women nor the disciples knew what to think about it. Peter and John went back to the tomb with them. John saw the grave clothes and believed, but Peter left wondering what in the world had happened.

So Mary Magdalene was left standing outside the tomb crying. She had a feeling someone must have moved the body, and this must be some kind of cruel prank. She saw the angels again, and they asked her why she was crying. She replied, “They’ve taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they’ve put Him!” Then she turned around and saw another man. She didn’t recognize this guy and decided he must be the gardener. This new man asked her, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

She replied, “Sir, if you took him, can you tell me where you put him so I can go get him?”

Then he replied, “Mary.”

She had been crying so hard she couldn’t see straight through her tears. She looked at Him again and recognized Jesus! “Teacher!” she cried. She was so excited that she ran and told the disciples what she had seen with her own eyes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon

I wrote this last night to commemorate the "Blood Moon" being completely blocked by the clouds. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, there are much more serious things to be worried about (such as the sinking of the Titanic exactly 102 years before I wrote this), but sometimes I like to get melodramatic and exhibit my parody skills.

This is how the Blood Moon would have looked, 
had I been able to see it. Maybe next time!
Picture from

To be sung to the tune of Rodgers and Hart's 1934 song "Blue Moon"...

Blood Moon
© Steven Sauke, April 15, 2014

Blood moon
I tried to see you tonight
I had a dream in my heart
To see th'eclipse on my own

Blood moon
You knew what I went outside for
Excitement can’t be denied, for
You’re what I looked in the sky for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
A sky full of clouds! That’s all I see.
I’d heard somebody whisper, “The moon’ll be red”
And when I looked, it was nowhere to be seen

Blood moon
Now I’m right here, all alone
Without your face smiling down
Without a moon, red or white.

Blood moon
Oh, why must you hide away?
You’re red up there, so they say
But I can’t tell! Stupid clouds!

Monday, April 14, 2014


Times were tough in ancient Egypt. The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years, and their masters were very cruel to them. For years, they prayed for deliverance, and God heard their cries. He sent a guy named Moses, and God used Moses and his brother Aaron to deliver the Israelites out of slavery. God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians, and the last one was the hardest for the Egyptians to handle. The firstborn of each family, even including the animals, died. But God passed over the Israelites and spared their firstborn. Up to that point, the Pharaoh had been pretty stubborn about wanting to keep his slaves, but losing his heir made him realize that some things just weren’t worth losing what you love the most. So he finally let the Israelites go. So began a period of 40 years as the Israelites traveled home to the land of their ancestors, and every year they celebrated their deliverance when God passed over them. Passover became one of the most important feasts of the year. For years, they had been praying, “Hosanna!” Please save us! God had heard their pleas and answered. He had saved them. But as the years went on, they needed to be saved again and again. Years later, they split into two kingdoms and eventually were captured by the kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria. The nation of Judah got to return home after 70 years in exile in Babylon, but eventually, the empire of Rome came along and took over the whole area. Prophets foretold of a Messiah who would one day deliver them from their oppressors, and so they continued their pleas of “HOSANNA!”

Somewhere around 1400 years after the Israelites left Egypt, angels appeared to shepherds on a hillside announcing that the promised Savior had arrived! Wise men from the east saw a star and came to worship this new child who had been born to a girl named Mary. The child’s name was Jesus, and he grew up to become a respected rabbi who preached, told stories to teach lessons, and did some amazing miracles. Word was getting around that Jesus was fulfilling a lot of the prophecies of the Messiah.

So it was that the year Jesus was 33, He and His disciples arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. People came from all over the place to celebrate in the capital city, and as Jesus got close, He had an odd task for some of His disciples. He told them to go to a nearby farm, where they would find a donkey colt. They were to untie it and bring it to him. Jesus told them, “If the donkey’s owner asks you why you’re untying it, tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So they did as they were told. Sure enough, the owner asked why they were untying his donkey. They explained the situation just as Jesus had told them to do, and he let them take it.

Many years earlier, the prophet Zechariah had foretold that the Messiah would come in victory, riding a donkey colt. So now they saw that prophecy happening before their very eyes! The plea that they had been praying for hundreds of years suddenly became a shout of praise! “HOSANNA! SAVE US! Yay! Our Savior is here! You’re here in the name of the Lord, and you rock!” While they were shouting and excitedly praising God, they took off their coats and laid them on the ground for the donkey to walk on. They had cut down palm branches from nearby trees, and they laid those on the ground too! This was how they welcomed a King into the city.

There were some Pharisees in the crowd, though, and they weren’t too happy with what they heard. They told Jesus, “Tell your followers to be quiet!”

“Are you kidding?” Jesus replied. “If they stopped their praises, the rocks would shout out!”

For hundreds of years, the Israelites had praised God for all the wonderful things that He had done. They praised Him for delivering them from Egypt, for providing food in the wilderness, for helping them to conquer their enemies in the Promised Land. All that time, they had also been praying for deliverance from their oppressors. Now their prayer for deliverance became their shout of praise for what they knew Jesus was about to do: deliver them!

But as we’ll find out next week, Jesus had a plan up His sleeve that was much better than delivering them from the Romans. They didn’t realize right away that it was better, though.