What is Devotion?

Your religious body does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God … not your history, not your traditions, not your ceremonies, and not your religious writings.

Your personal religious practices also do not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. You can be at every meeting, know the words to every song, have all the ceremonies memorized, pray at all the correct times, dress the way you are supposed to dress, and do everything that is expected of you apart from the body … and in spite of all that, your heart can be far from God.

Similarly, your position in your religious body does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. Whether you’re the curate, or the rabbi, or the apostle, or the pope, or the shaman, or the minister, or the elder, or the mullah, or the vicar, or the prophet, or the teacher, your position does not define the condition of your soul.

And of course, your reputation does not determine the degree to which you are devoted to God. People may bow down and worship you, or on the other hand you may be hated and ridiculed by all around you. What people may think of you has nothing to do with how your innermost being is tuned.


Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti. I had seen that statistic several times in the past, but for some reason I never believed it. I thought that surely there must be other countries that are poorer … Cuba? … Honduras? … Bolivia?

Perhaps Guatemala as well, for I had seen firsthand the poverty in Guatemala when we were there in 2010. However, now that I have seen Granada, the crown jewel of Nicaragua, I understand why this country can be considered so impoverished. Guatemala´s crown jewel, Antigua, seems wealthy by comparison.

Nicaragua is very fortunate to be located where it is, just South of the drug shipments that pass through Honduras, El Savador, Guatemala, and Mexico on their way to be sold in the USA. The demand for illegal drugs in the USA creates the supply, but if there was no demand then the illegal drug trade would shrink together with all of the associated violence. Below Nicaragua is Costa Rica, a very prosperous nation indeed, and interestingly one of the few countries in the world that does not have a military. I sometimes wonder what we could do with the one trillion dollars we spend every year on our military if we skipped one year of that spending and instead found something different to invest in. Would our economy go belly up? Would the world fall apart? Would some other nation overrun us and take away all our liberties?

When my wife and I travel, we try as much as possible to absorb the local culture … the food, activities, and life in general. Nonetheless, in less than one week we have already eaten at half a dozen restaurants that most Nicaraguans would not even consider due to the prohibitive cost. For example, the other night we ate at one of the nicest restaurants in town and spend $37 (which in Nicaraguan currency is 1000 córdobas). In light of the fact that the average annual income for a Nicaraguan family is around $1800, it would be excessive for one of the local folks to spend $37 on a single meal. So, while we like to say that we try to experience the local culture when we travel, the reality is that we don´t get anywhere close. One soothing grace is the knowledge that tourism money is one of the principle sources of income for the country of Nicaragua, but the difficulty is in getting that money to the people who need it most.

In the USA 90% of the wealth is controlled by 20% of the population, however the problem of income inequality is even more pronounced in Latin America where 90% of the wealth is controlled by only 10% of the population. I am proud to be a US citizen, but I don´t believe that our capitalistic system as it has evolved to this point is particularly pleasing to God. The socialism of Cuba and Nicaragua is not the answer either. Wouldn´t it be wonderful if we could create a system that honors ingenuity and hard work and wealth building while making sure that most of the wealth is not controlled by such a small percentage? For example, what if 50% of the population of the USA controlled 90% of the wealth? It seems absurd to say that this would be a significant improvement over the current reality, but that is the truth.

Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish

I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and 4 years later I passed the B1 intermediate level DELE exam administered by the Cervantes Institute of Spain. (The DELE exam is a standardized test of Spanish language proficiency that is taken in 900 certified examination centers in more than 100 countries around the world). Now I am at the high intermediate level, and when I pass the C1 exam I will be considered an advanced learner of Spanish. Today I would like to share with you my “Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish.”

First, there is no secret to becoming fluent in any language. Granted, some methods work faster than others, however it still takes an estimated 3 hours of study and practice every day for 10 years to go from absolute beginner to near native fluency.

Not everyone wants to invest the time it takes to become completely fluent, so my second tip is to get clear in your mind what level of Spanish you’d like to reach, and then set specific and achievable goals for reaching that level of Spanish.

Thirdkeep it fun! Many people burn out quickly because learning a language becomes all work and no fun. Watch Spanish videos. Listen to Spanish music. Read Spanish news that interests you. Build your Spanish vocabulary in a way that is fun for you.

The fourth key is the importance of using the language from the very beginning. If you only know 100 Spanish words and a few verbs in the present tense, start speaking Spanish to everyone in order to make many mistakes … that’s how we learned our first language, and that’s how we learn a new language.

Fifth, check out the following list of programs and websites that I think are the most helpful for learning Spanish … they are listed in no particular order. Some are free, and some can be very expensive, so proceed as you wish. Also, be sure to go to my Spanish Words and Resources page to take advantage of the FREE resources there.

www.newsinslowspanish.com/latino – My favorite Spanish podcast. This link is to the Latino Spanish site, but you can also listen to the Spain Spanish program. You can get portions of these podcasts in iTunes for free to try them out, but if you want the entire audio program it is $14 per month. For $23 per month you get full access to the audios, PDF files, grammar exercises, etc.

www.spanishobsessed.com – This podcast is very well done, it is a British guy and his Colombian wife; you can listen to podcasts free, or pay a fee to get greater access.

www.lightspeedspanish.co.uk – This program is similar to the program above in that it was created by a British guy whose partner is a native Spanish speaker … they have some nice free audio and other resources, however the Spain Spanish accent is not the most commonly used throughout the world.

www.memrise.com – A good site for improving vocab, and there is a phone app that you can use.

http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/index.html – A very helpful site, free videos in Spanish for various levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and the videos are accompanied by a text translation. I have downloaded many of their videos to my iTunes and iPod/iPhone.

http://www.learner.org/series/destinos  – Destinos Spanish educational telenovela, it is a bit dated but very helpful and free to everyone; go to this site and click on “Watch” at the top.

http://conjuguemos.com – Lots of people (especially youngsters) use this sites for the vocabulary quizzes and verb drills.

http://users.pfw.edu/jehle/VERBLIST.HTm – In my opinion, hands down the best site for finding all of the conjugations of all the Spanish verbs, plus there is plenty of additional information on this site that is very helpful.

www.yabla.com – Hundreds of videos organized by learner level and Spanish country accent, this is a nice site that costs $10 per month to use.

http://noticias.univision.com/america-latina – Univision is the most trusted news source in the Latino community, and this link goes to the latest news stories for Latin America; listening to the news in Spanish is a great way to improve your ability to hear Spanish.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/temas/america_latina – BBC is very similar to NPR in the United States (and unfortunately NPR does not have a Spanish language version), and this link takes you to the latest news stores for Latin America.

www.duolingo.com – Another free site that asks you to contribute to the cause by reviewing other submissions … this site contains many helpful exercises.

www.fluentin3months.com – Benny is pretty well-known in the polyglot community and he emphasizes “speak from day one,” and he encourages you to work on becoming “fluent” in a language in as little as 3 months; he has written a few books, but the real value of this site is the language community as well as the email newsletter that includes many language learning links.

www.pimsleur.com – Pimsleur was my favorite program for a long time, however it became less useful to me when I reached intermediate level (which is about as far as Pimsleur will take you). Pimsleur is great at teaching you to speak Spanish, and since it is all audio and there are no books, you can use it anywhere (such as while exercising, driving down the road, etc.) In early 2015 Pimsleur released a level 5 Spanish program, and I purchased the download of the MP3 files for only $120 (the CDs are much more expensive). Sometimes you can borrow Pimsleur from your local library, so I encourage you to check it out.

www.rosettastone.com – Everybody knows about Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s most popular language learning programs. Most people believe that extensive marketing makes it so popular, but I believe it is popular because it makes building your vocabulary fun. (I completed all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish).

www.fluenz.com – This little company fearlessly claims to be better than Rosetta Stone, and the program is equally as pricey. I own the two highest levels of Fluenz, and it has some of the best writing drills that I have ever found. Also, in Fluenz there is an English speaking instructor that clarifies grammar, vocabulary, etc., in contrast to the Rosetta Stone total immersion system where nothing is explained in English.

https://newsela.com – A very nice news site made for language learners that I recently discovered; to learn Spanish, go into the menu and click on Spanish Text Sets

Julioandgringo.com – My friend Julio and I created this site to provide entertaining and informative audiobooks, podcasts, and other products that help native English speakers learn Spanish.

Fotopala.com – Last but not least, our very own Fotopala.com site where you can find numerous resources that will help you learn English, teach ESL (English as a Second Language), learn Spanish, and be Empowered.

Fight Like a Girl

I know what it means to fight like a girl. Having watched my wife fight cancer for several weeks, I know more now about what the fight looks like for countless women, men, and children who receive a diagnosis of cancer.

God only knows what the fight looks like for those who have no access to health care, may God have mercy … but if you are like my wife who does have that access, it means discovering something wrong and calling the doctor. It means that first trip to the doctor, and then another, and many more. It means that you get to meet a steady stream of receptionists and medical assistants and nurses and technicians and doctors and benefit specialists and many more people who all seem to put on a brave face for you, and yet you know that some are smiling painfully for you. It means being poked and prodded and inspected and touched and x-rayed and stabbed and injected and cut and operated-on and samples and having medicine that seems more like poison injected into you in the hope that it is smart enough to find and kill all the bad cells while leaving alone all the good cells.

To fight like a girl means feeling sick, really sick for several days at a time. It means not even being able to look at many of the foods you used to love eating. It means losing all your hair. It means headaches and nausea and experiencing many other heretofore unforeseen aches and pains, and it forces you to take a lot of pills and medicine that you don’t normally take. It means eating when you don’t feel like eating, walking when you don’t feel like walking, working when you don’t feel like working, and being civil when you don’t feel like being civil. It means sleeping a lot, and sometimes it means not being able to sleep at all.

To fight like a girl means that many friends and relatives come along to fight with you, to do what they can to hold you up and help you out. It means receiving gifts of friendship and love and food and hats and letters and giftcards and transportation and visits and tears and words of encouragement and love … it means receiving lots of love. In spite of all the challenges, it means feeling very blessed to have so much in life to hold dear.

To fight like a girl – well, it’s not a fight against anything or anyone. It is a fight for health and hope and life and love … and my lovely wife wins that fight every time.

Spanish Resources – Recursos en Español

Here are links to several files that I hope are helpful to you … feel free to download them, and please remember to tell people that you found them on Fotopala.com — Thank you!

Aquí hay enlaces a varios archivos que espero que sean de utilidad para ti … no dudes en descargarlos, y por favor no olvides decir a la gente que has encontrado en Fotopala.com — ¡Gracias!


Listing of more than 3000 Spanish Words including those on Fotopala
Colors and Clothes Vocabulary
Ser and Estar Explained
Por and Para Explained
Por and Para Idiomatic Expressions
Accent Rules for Spanish Words
Keyboard Shortcuts for Spanish Accents


The 15 Spanish Tenses of the Indicative and Subjunctive
Imperfect Tense Explained
Preterite Tense Explained
Present Perfect Tense Explained
Conditional Tense Explained
The 17 Most Important Spanish Verbs
Over 500 Spanish Verbs
Hundreds of Spanish Sentences in Various Tenses
Scenarios that Help Transition to the Subjunctive


Spanish Programs and Resources on the Market
Links to Spanish Radio and TV
Languages Spoken in the USA 2010 Census