No Greater Love

Have you ever sacrificed your own desires for someone because you loved them more than yourself? That certainly expressed true love, right?  Well, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I would like to comment on the Greatest Act of Love ever accomplished for us; John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Have you ever wondered what went through Christ’s mind as He was scourged, spat on, beaten and ridiculed as a scapegoat for our sin?

Did our Lord ever question why He was doing this?

  • Wonder why He was sacrificing His life for someone who tortured and murdered sweet children?
  • The one who stole funds from that Christian charity for personal use?
  • Or that serial rapist a judge let go, only to do it again?

True, but Christ died for all sinners, even those who simply lied, stole pencils from the office or whose golden idol was gluttony.

Every one of us is guilty of sin before the Lord.

Aren’t you grateful that Jesus didn’t disobey God’s Will in Gethsemane to avoid unfathomable pain and suffering? He knew the future. He knew people would not accept him or even worse become apathetic. They would curse in his name, ignore his commands, laugh as others worshipped him and yet he still sacrificed his life for them as well.

What tremendous love it  must have taken to go to the Cross!

Personally I believe while Christ suffered,  my face along with the billions of faces for whom He became an offering for, came into view. As He was suffering, He focused all his attention, mental powers and love on that future victorious day when Ellie, Martha, John, Bob (or whomever) accepted Him as their personal Savior. “Come onto me . . .”  and it was worth the cost. Praise God for that!

Now the question is, how do we show appreciation for His incredibly loving sacrifice? What would you sacrifice for love? Would you give up gluttony for Christ? Is something as miniscule as reducing unhealthy foods to become a stronger testimony worth His sacrifice? Silly question, right? But will you? Please don’t sell your godly testimony, as Essau did, for a mess of material pottage here on earth.

When life becomes difficult and we face our own challenges in the future, remain focused on what is really important in life: Eternity, not on the way we look but how we have honored our inner Temple of the Holy Spirit for God’s Glory.

Focus on becoming a New Creation for Christ based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Satan wants nothing more than to destroy God’s temple on earth, which are His believers.  There are many enemies who hope to sideline you from that goal with temptations of drugs, alcohol, smoking and even food.

But God remains by our side, even during our most stressful situations.

Isaiah 41: 10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Sometimes our “old memory chains” bind us mentally or emotionally to the past. Break free from bondage and live an abundant life in Christ! I urge you to personally accept Jesus’s incredible Valentine gift:  Freedom in Christ .

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Why Dark Chocolate is the Perfect Valentine Gift!

On a morning show recently, I heard this health professional snidely remark, “Well you wouldn’t eat dark chocolate every day would you???”

Oh my dear lady, Of course I would and usually DO!

Doesn’t she keep up on the latest info available? Oh wait, never mind. I derived mine from God’s instructions 6,000 years ago when God told Adam he could eat from any tree in the Garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let me assure you: the cocoa bean comes from a tree which isn’t evil.

I know, I could have waited until next week but hopefully husbands are contemplating Valentine’s gifts this week. So I’m passing along this suggestion now.

Sometimes I overhear, “Oh, I was baaaad; I ate chocolate this week.” Giggle, giggle.

Why is chocolate so maligned? Chocolate, in moderation, is one of the finest, nutrient-dense  foods one can consume. The cocoa myth ranks up there with avoiding eggs and shrimp with good HDL cholesterol.

I follow a simple formula, if God says it, I believe it, that settles it. However in case you don’t, let me convince you of the benefits of dark chocolate.

Chocolate is a powerful anti-oxidant, ranking even higher than the acai, pomegranate and blueberry on the protection scale. What do antioxidants do? Let me count the ways:

  1. They act as a natural sunblock, protecting us against ultra violet rays and skin damage.
  2. It protects against ailments like heart disease, vision impairments, hypertension, diabetes and cancers.
  3. It assists in lowering blood pressure because chocolate contains natural nitric oxide which increases oxygen levels and relaxes blood vessels.

Chocolate boosts our mood due to its phenethylamine (PEA) content. This is a 50-cent word which stimulates the brain to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. PEA acts as drug. It stimulates the nervous system and triggers feel good endorphins. (One reason chocolate’s addictive. It’s hard to stop something that makes you feel so emotionally good.)

But a normal serotonin level is important because it improves one’s mood, sleep patterns and increases libido. When one is low in serotonin, they’re usually cranky, impatient and could act erratically. Women who suffer from PMS often find themselves depressed, craving chocolate because serotonin levels are diminished.

Subconsciously you might find yourself searching for chocolate after you’ve had a bad day or are lonely. Remember it’s a treat not a crutch. Bring it into your home only if you can control your behavior around it.

Chocolate is an enigma. It contains theobromine and caffeine which are stimulants and yet  reduces the stress-hormone cortisol, once again increasing serotonin, the pleasure hormone.

The nutrients found in chocolate are incredible: Potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, great fatty acids, good saturated and monounsaturated fat. The cocoa bean also contains valuable flavonoids, polyphenols, fiber and cocoa butter, (a great moisturizer.)

Chocolate even contains powerful probiotics which improve digestion and good bacteria to fight infection. Need another reason to consume chocolate? Believe it or not the antibacterial compounds will fight plague and tooth decay!

One of the best ways to consume dark chocolate is to place 15 semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small container. Eat one at a time, savoring each one. Don’t place another in your mouth until you’re done with the first one.

Another way is to melt those chips and slice fresh berries, bananas or your favorite fruit and use chocolate as a dip.

These are just some of the many ways chocolate benefits the body. Just enjoy God’s bounty without making anything an idol.

“The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us.” (Psalm 67:6)

 

Breathe, Relax and De-Stress!

Is your life filled with stress?

Do you work under stressful conditions? Have a domineering boss? Do you experiences stress as a nurse, (my #1 patient) when you can’t do anything for that small child dying in the ICU? As an overworked teacher, when that popular teenager calls you a derogatory name behind your back and others laugh? Or a social worker, wishing you had funds to purchase food for every struggling family, but can only stand by and help in what little way you can?

You might even question God and wonder why He allows such things to happen?

Faith is trusting, even when we don’t understand why.

A stressful environment can result not only in irritability, fatigue, headaches, memory loss, high blood pressure, insomnia and other health issues, but it can also add additional weight to your frame.

American Neurobiologist, Dr. Sapolsky, studied a Kenyan baboon community for 30 years. Existing in a class system, the aggressive Alpha males terrorized the gentler males causing stress-related illnesses within the group; elevated blood pressure, heart problems and yes, even weight gain.

Since the Alpha males also dominated the food chain; they would eat first. However they once consumed a deadly substance which caused disease and killed them off. The kinder males took over the community which then thrived due to a stress-less environment. This produced peace . . . and weight loss.

Food can be many a person’s comfort drug when they are feeling stressed. Food’s as addictive as smoking, drugs or alcohol because it changes the body’s chemistry and the neurotransmitters in our brain.

If you’re tired or having a stressful morning, it’s easy to reach for the sugary donuts in the break room. Sugar increases energy and also releases feel-good serotonin to the brain. Angry? Those pretzels and peanuts are therapeutically crunchy, releasing pent up frustration!!! Lonely? Subconsciously you reach for that stress-reliever, comforting  chemical, phenylethylamine, found in chocolate.

We need to seek peace in other ways besides reaching for food.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9: 9,10)

Although we can’t totally eradicate stress from our lives because there is good and bad stress everywhere, every day; we can take steps to control harmful stress.

Create a Strategy and Take Action!

  1. Exercise. Serotonin is also released through exercise too! Bike, walk, play tennis, swim, go to the gym but discipline yourself!
  2. Warm relaxing baths or massage therapy.  Have your spouse give you a foot or back rub.
  3. Take action to assist and be a blessing to others. Work at an employment agency, volunteer at a charity, cook a meal, read a story to that suffering child. Be pro-active and make a difference in someone’s life.
  4. Have a cup of tea, enjoy the sunset and relax with music.
  5. Meditate.  The closer you experience God, the more peace you’ll experience. Have Faith that His Way is Best.
  6. Laughter relieves stress. Laugh with your family, watch a comedy, play games, have a date night.
  7. Remember you can’t live in a vacuum. Find someone to talk to, whether it’s a spouse, friend or pastor, we all need a support system.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” (Psalm 143:10)

Success is within reach but you must want to take action to grasp it!

What “Doggie-Hell” Seems Like

Our Cavashon, affectionately called, “Mr. No-No,” enjoys coming into my office and laying at my feet while I write. He brings in countless bones, chewy’s, tuggie ropes. balls, Kongs and other toys until he is surrounded. I must step gingerly if I get up, so I don’t get hurt stepping on one.

While I was  in my office writing one morning, he once again at my feet, got up and moved away. I heard him sadly whimpering. I thought he simply wanted to get out to get a sip of water, but that wasn’t it. Looking up, I noticed he was staring at his toy box on the other side of the glass door, lusting after yet another slobbery toy.

“But I really want that one,” he seemed to incessantly whine at me. “If only I can have that one I won’t ask for another thing again. I promise!!!”

“Sorry buddy,” I said as I continued to write, “I’m not getting up just so you can get another icky toy. Lay down now.” (I talk to the little guy like he’s a regular person.) He kept whining but sometimes “one must be more stubborn than a Lhasa apso” (another dog blog post reference) and he eventually gave up and laid down, probably dreaming how I was the worst mom ever.

He had 52 other items he could play with and yet he believed something different and new would bring him ultimate happiness.

How like us too! Who is our God? We sometimes choose materialistic items, money, power or prestige over our Lord and family. What values does that teach our children?  God has blessed us so abundantly and yet we strive for things that will become dust, for emotional highs which fade away over time and items that have no lasting value.

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

What about our food choices? God generously gave us an abundance of nutritious items that not only sustain us, but will produce a vibrant life.

Yet we choose nutrient-deprived pretzels, chips, bacon burgers, diet sodas and sugary candy over strawberries, dark chocolate, avocados and nuts because sugary idols will bring ultimate happiness, right?

Actually they do but that’s a half-truth – and who is the master of half-truths? Satan.  Sugary drinks, candy and junk food with its dyes, artificial colors, sugars and preservatives, will lift our spirits for awhile because of their addictive chemicals.

But then comes the blood sugar crash. When that happens, our blood sugar and pH becomes acidic, which makes us grumpy, jittery, weak and miserable to be around. Without nutrients we also have no way to convert carbohydrates, fats and protein into energy so we’re only consuming empty calories and gaining weight.

To our pup, doggie hell looks like deprivation. To him I’m the godly master who is mean- spirited, restricting all his fun.  He focuses on his presumed deprivation, just as we do sometimes. He conveniently forgets the abundant nutritious treats he gets when he behaves properly.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) 

The thief is Satan who wants nothing more than to destroy our earthly temple mentally, physically and spiritually.

But our Lord wants us to enjoy an abundant life! One way we can do so is live by His recommended nutritional guidelines found in Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 9:3.

Be Content, Count your Blessings, Honor God, Live Abundantly!

 

 

Striving Toward Victory in the Midst of Challenges

Mohamed Ali didn’t win every boxing match, Tom Brady doesn’t complete every pass attempt, Michael Jordan didn’t score every time he put up the shot. But they are each considered the best in their field. Why? The common denominator is that they never quit!

Don’t quit either!

Have you ever watched an athlete during practice? Each athlete strives for excellence and when they falter, they dig deep, determined to get their rhythm back once again.  I’m sure they never considered quitting because they would have retired defeated. In their eyes that would be a disgrace.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13)

As you strive for a healthier lifestyle this year, I’m sure you’ve faltered a bit in the past three weeks, been sabotaged with tempting food, perhaps had exercise set-backs, maybe even gaining a pound or two. But I hope you haven’t quit!

That would be as heartbreakig as heading on a family ski vacation and if you took a wrong turn, throwing up your hands in defeat, announcing, “Sorry gang, I made a mistake, trip’s over – let’s go home.”

Can you imagine the disappointment on your children’s faces if you actually did that? I’m certain you would take out your map, figure out where you turned wrong. Then you’d get back on the right road and head for your destination once again.

Similarly, when striving for a healthier lifestyle, if you make a mistake, get out your directions again and analyze what you did wrong. Then head toward your destination once again: health!

Most of us will never become world-class athletes, but we can certainly aspire to excel. Often however, discouragement sets in because we expect instant gratification.

Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Mohamed Ali didn’t become “The Greatest” in their field overnight. It was a struggle at times. To each however, the ultimate reward was worth the struggle.

Life itself is a balance of mountain tops  and struggles. It’s a typical daily diet of better choices. Humans need nutrients to have a successfully running metabolism!

We are not meant to consume only one food category. Balance your diet plan with many different types of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and herbs. Vary your protein intake with a variety of lean protein. Consume healthy fat. But if you consume a fattier meal one day, so what? Get right back on the ” better selection” routine and eat more disciplined the next day.

When discouraged, or if you reach a plateau in your weight quest and can’t seem to lose those last few pounds, always reconsider your original instructions:

  1. Are you eating nutrient-dense foods?
  2. Using smaller plates?
  3. Exercising?
  4. Drinking enough water?
  5. Is your routine becoming boring? Change it up. Consume different nutritious foods or create different ways to exercise.
  6. Perhaps you need a short attainable goal?
  7. Talk yourself into continuing to strive for excellence!

No matter what challenges you encounter, learn from them and keep going! I’m praying you wouldn’t think of turning your back on your Christian lifestyle simply because you made a mistake. So please don’t turn your back on a healthy lifestyle.

God, the Ultimate Coach, is forgiving and extremely patient with us. He is our Encourager, motivating us onward toward being our best self and yet gently reprimanding us if we tend to not listen to His counsel:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23) 

Why Is Dietary Balance So Important?

My previous post encouraged you to find supportive friends. Ones who wouldn’t coddle or enable you but rather strengthen you when you needed them.

This is very similar to how our physiological system works.

Our God is a God of order and balance.  He wants our bodies to function in perfect harmony; even in what we should eat! No wonder we feel ‘off kilter’ when we don’t consume the right foods! We feel we have no energy and our brain doesn’t seem to function properly.

 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)

God created everything to work in conjunction for good so we absolutely need physiological balance! It’s  matter of teamwork. Popping one nutrient or vitamin supplement won’t help as much unless they are combined. In other words, it needs supportive nutritional “friends” along the way.

  • Iron needs vitamin C to work efficiently.
  • Calcium, magnesium, potassium also work in conjunction for better health.
  • Vitamins A, E, K need fat to assimilate..

Aim to get most of your nutrients from actual food; fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as fresh as possible. If no Farmer’s Market is available, purchase frozen.  When purchasing,  consider nutrients, not just calories, food groups or fat grams. If I create a banana/orange/milled flaxseed smoothie in the morning, I don’t think of it as a banana smoothie but as a calcium/magnesium/omega 3 shake It’s chucked full of nutrients which, while working together, produce a healthier me!

Synergy is a fancy word which simply means that a combination of nutrients will bond together for a more productive purpose. Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, flavonoids, amino acids all need essential balance for good health.

Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean by food combining to bring out the symbiotic relationship of nutrients, all working together to produce a stronger element.

B vitamins found in most foods, should be consumed along with vitamin C. So slice a few strawberries on your whole grain cereal or drink a glass of orange juice (with pulp) in the morning. Tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple, peppers, cantaloupe, onions, green peas and leafy greens all contain vitamin C. You can’t go wrong by adding these water-soluble vitamins to any meal!

Vitamin C should combine with iron. Have that high quality sirloin with a baked potato and garden salad with berries, or add 93% ground beef in your tomato pasta sauce for maximum absorption. Vitamin C also builds and restores collagen, keeping skin strong and younger looking!

Zinc found in shrimp, egg yolks, lamb, poultry and fish goes perfectly with some B6; spinach, corn, carrots, walnuts and leafy greens. Calcium; cabbage, broccoli, cheese or copper; mushrooms, garlic, avocado.

Your body must have magnesium to process calcium and it must have vitamin D and K to absorb and regulate calcium in the blood. Calcium also helps process zinc and if someone doesn’t have enough zinc, a body can’t process vitamin A.   So complicated!

And some people just believe this complicated system of ours ‘just happened by chance’, unbelievable!!

Don’t haphazardly pop more vitamins either!  If something’s good, it doesn’t necessarily mean more is better.  There’s a limit on fat soluble vitamin intake, don’t overdose!

Eat to honor God, pursuing a godly balance in your life and strive to become a supportive friend.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.”   (Romans 15:2)

Find Healthy Support Thru A Redwood Forest Analogy

This has been my most viewed (and most “copied”) post in the past 5 years so I thought it bore repeating, especially this time of year:

If you’re attempting a  healthier lifestyle, you shouldn’t do it alone. Find someone to be your Champion – someone to hold you accountable, encourage, motivate and celebrate your victories with. A friend who will support you like a Redwood tree!

Have you ever driven through the magnificent Redwood National Forest in northern California?  As you gazed upon those majestic 350 foot tall trees towering above you, you probably thought as I did, Man, their roots must tunnel 50 ft. into the earth! 

Amazingly, that’s not the case. Their roots are only a few feet deep! So what’s to prevent them from toppling over and being destroyed, you ask, when diaster strikes? Surprisingly, support from fellow trees.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;” (Psalm 96: 11,12)

As Christians we can learn valuable lessons from the Redwoods by copying their support system when trials occur in our lives.

1.  The tree’s root structure supports each other by interlocking their shallow roots with the other Redwoods surrounding them. When under duress, the older trees buttress each other by developing roots on the downward side of those under stress. The younger trees are bolstered up by the older ones, thus supporting the younger generation.

When we recognize someone struggling to become healthier in mind, body and spirit, do we encourage or hinder them? Do we strengthen them with Scripture or sabotage them with tempting treats or disparaging statements? Allow them to struggle on their own? Everyone needs some  “atta-boys” to keep them going along their pathways to health. Do we offer wise, practical strategies or defeatist advice?

2.  The charring of their bark actually makes them stronger!

When exposed to challenges like fire, they develop a protective shield.

Has God strengthened you through challenges? Many have gone through the worst that man can dish out; drug, mental or sexual abuse, abandonment, cancer or other health obstacles, but inwardly they’ve strong. They’re still standing!

3.  A fallen Redwood will ultimately branch out and grow. Still useful; its roots become other trees.

Never give up simply because you face obstacles. Overcoming adversity and temptation makes us stronger, wiser and more confident. Pass along those life skills to help others because God bestowed them on you for a reason.(Genesis 50:20)

Just as in life, some young trees won’t survive, but many will because of the support of older trees.  Proverbs 22:6. Young Redwoods are more vulnerable, just like young Christians.  Instill in them that growth is a valuable process.

4.  Surprisingly, the chemical composition of the bark is distasteful and even poisonous to termites and other pests! Develop ‘Bodily Armour of God’ so strong  that even the demons don’t dare to bother us!

5.  Which brings me to my last point.  The bark of the Redwood is a foot thick!  Fire and man are the Redwoods only natural enemies, similar to trials and worldly temptations for Christians. Strive to develop a thicker skin when criticized. Whether it’s about being too “thin,” too “heavy” or too “Christian,” the only one we need to impress is our Lord.  Stand fast. Never give in to peer pressure.

Everyone needs a support system.

“For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)