Posted by: kathryngraves | June 21, 2017

Tiny Beauties

This morning I went out to water my flowers. As I bent over a bed with the water hose aimed at some coleus, a baby bunny dashed out from under the neighboring perennial geranium. My little flower bed seems to be a perfect tiny ecosystem for plant and animal life. When I dig in the dirt to plant annuals, I find long, fat worms. Their activity aerates and enriches the soil for the plants. It seems rabbits will eat those plants!

I happened to be tuned in to the small stuff because of my morning Bible reading in Ezekiel 41.  It was part of my scheduled daily reading, and not a chapter I would normally turn to or even think to read. It gave the dimensions for the temple God showed Ezekiel in a vision. It is a future building, not built even yet, but the attention to detail is astounding. Exact measurements and design elements are included so that a rendering could be drawn to scale and used as a blueprint.

Combined with a couple chapters I’ve recently read in other books of the Bible, the reminder to me was strong that God cares about the smallest details. He planned for that baby bunny to have the perfect home. Even if I do prefer he not eat my coleus.

While outside, I took notice of some other tiny items. A water droplet sat on a leaf, shimmering and trembling in the breeze before being blown to bits by a sudden gust of wind. The leaf, now fluttering and bending and waving. A piece of dirt stuck to the stalk of coleus. Deep red and lime green veining in the coleus leaves.

I came inside and noticed a seashell I keep in the kitchen. It is a small, broken spiral, but I love the shades of brown alongside the bleached white of the edges. It reminds me of a favorite trip to the ocean.

I inherited a tiny pitcher-shaped vase from my mother. A Yellow rose and purple violets are painted on the front. As a child, I brought nosegays of weeds to her and she always made a big production of putting them in that little vase to keep in the kitchen window sill.

How comforting to know that God cares about all the small things in our lives, whether tangible or intangible. The Psalmist tells us He keeps our tears in a bottle. Whether it’s a literal bottle or not, the point is that He notices and remembers when we’re sad. He noticed that baby bunny running for cover and heard its tiny, pounding heartbeat.

Are you experiencing an emotion you think God doesn’t notice? Begin a list of the things you are afraid God might not notice about your life. As you read your list, thank Him for caring about each item.

What are some tiny beauties around you? Begin a list and thank God for them.

I’ll remember to thank Him for rabbits.

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Photo: Pixabay

 

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 14, 2017

Trim Healthy Mama Review

Several of my friends subscribe to the Trim Healthy Mama diet plan. One of them asked me what I thought about it. Honestly, I didn’t know. At the time, I remained unaware of the plan. So, I decided to read up on it. But I couldn’t–without paying money. Oh, I could view glowing testimonials on Facebook and the official website. But until my friend sent me the link to a blog that functions as a companion to the book, I could discover no details.

Because of this road-block, I began my reading with a good bit of skepticism. However, the basics do seem nutritious. So here is my take on this current fad. (Yes, I believe it is a fad, even though it is probably a pretty good one.)

Positives of the Trim Healthy Mama Diet

  • All the essential food groups are included. Carbohydrates are not excluded, they are simply regulated. This is a point upon which some other diet fads fail, and why most people cannot stay on them for a lifetime.
  • There is a lot of community. The Facebook group members get to see testimonials, recipes, and positive support. It’s almost like a secret sorority, so one feels like she’s part of an “in” crowd. No doubt this helps someone who might be trying to eat right without many others in her life joining her.
  • There are rules to follow. For some people this is important. It helps them stay on-track. For others, rules function as a negative.
  • Artificial sweeteners are banned. It is becoming common knowledge that these are poison in disguise and that they actually cause weight gain.
  • Whole, organic foods are promoted for the most part.

Negatives of the Trim Healthy Mama Diet

  • There are rules to follow. The plan is so complicated, the companion blog is necessary to help de-mystify it.
  • Carbohydrates and fats are never eaten together. The book apparently tells why, but if I followed this plan, I could never eat butter on my baked sweet potatoes, or sliced avocado on toasted Ezekiel Bread, or even put carrots in my salad with olive oil for a dressing. While I have heard of eating bread after a meal instead of before it, or separating protein from carbs, this is a different take on the order.
  • Participants are encouraged to eat every 3-4 hours. The companion blog says if you’re not hungry by then, you’re eating too much fat. This seems counter-intuitive to me. I want to go longer periods between meals, so I increase my “good” fat intake. Our bodies also benefit from periodic fasting from food.
  • Protein is mandated at every meal. This would mean 4 or even up to 6 times per day. Most people don’t need anywhere near that much protein. Also, protein is found in sometimes unexpected foods, like nuts, so some people might consume more protein than they realize.
  • This one is just a personal thing for me. Recipes are offered that substitute stevia sweetener for sugar or coconut or almond flour for wheat flour, etc. I don’t want to turn a real, wonderful food into something it was never intended to be. If I’m going to eat a dessert, I’m going to eat the real thing and enjoy it. Depending on where my weight is, I may not do this very often at all, but I’ll look forward to it and use it as a reward. In the meantime, I’ll eat berries with real cream on top as dessert, or one ounce of at least 80% dark chocolate.
  • Not enough attention is paid to the preparation of food. Whole grains are only healthy if soaked (including oats) and prepared without added vitamins (enriched). Beans need to be soaked long and cooked long to remove anti-nutrients. Some vegetables become more bio-available when they are steamed than when they are raw. Tree nuts should always be soaked overnight in salt water and low-slow baked.

The Bottom Line

Any plan that you will follow and stay on for the rest of your life is a good one if it focuses on whole, healthy foods, low- or no-sugar, and healthy preparation methods. The real key is lifestyle change that lasts.

Many fad diets work, but are impossible to build a life around. I know one woman who lost over a hundred pounds with Weight Watchers 40 years ago and has still kept it off. Another friend loses weight with Weight Watchers and as soon as she reaches her goal weight, goes right back to her old eating patterns. I know a woman who lost with TOPS and is keeping hers off. I have friends who follow the Shepherd’s Diet right now and are rapidly losing weight.

My favorite plan is God’s plan. It never changes. It is always corroborated by “new” scientific research. You can find it in The Great Physician’s Rx for Good Health by Jordan Rubin. A more thorough treatment of the biblical basis for this way of eating is found in an older, but wonderful book, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, M.D. The current phrase “clean eating” describes the plan, too. Whatever it may be called, the principles remain timeless.

When our diet provides a solid foundation for good health, weight will normalize, certain diseases will be held at bay, and the severity of others can be minimized. It’s not a quick-fix. It is a paradigm shift to a new lifestyle.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 7, 2017

Do You Want a Little Sparkle?

I lifted my creaky old wood ladder onto my shoulder and grabbed my window cleaning supplies. The morning was perfect–warm enough, but not hot, a light breeze keeping humidity at bay, and a clear blue sky with white puffy clouds overhead. Pulling the ladder open, I dug the back legs into ground still muddy from recent rains.

“That should keep it steady,” I told myself. This rickety ladder has seen a lot of projects over its years with me, and I still prefer it over the new metal one my husband drags around. Placing my foot on the bottom step, I tested for a tilt. So far, so good, so I climbed up high enough to reach the top of the window.

A sudden lurch bumped my nose into the glass. I grabbed the top of the ladder with one hand and the window frame with the other and froze, anticipating further movement. But nothing happened. Looking down, I realized the ladder rested against the house. Whew! Maybe Bo was right, and I should use the new ladder. Or maybe it was just the soft ground.

I washed that window and moved on to the others, with no more ladder mishaps. As the day progressed from warm to hot, I moved indoors to wash the insides of the windows. When I finished, I was amazed at how well I could see out through the sparkling glass. Were my windows really that dirty before? I wondered.

The only possible answer to my question was “yes.” The dirt must have accumulated over time. It had been several years since I’d washed the outsides–more than I’d like to admit. We live in an area where dirt comes down with the rain. The day I washed windows, I noticed dirt spots on my car left by a recent shower. Sometimes we even call a short snow shower in the winter a “snirt” shower because it’s half dirt, half snow.

While I’d like to blame it all on my climate, I know the real problem was that I had neglected the maintenance required to keep my windows sparkly-clean.

The Lord whispered a thought into my head as I stood contemplating my newly clean windows. “Your life is like your windows. Without regular maintenance, it will become dull and nobody will see Me.”

Okay, so how can I “wash” my spiritual life? The Bible compares itself to wash water. Ephesians 5:26 tells us “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” This verse refers to Jesus and his relationship with the church. He uses the word, His word, to cleanse us. His word is the Bible.

Daily Bible reading helps us stay sparkly. When we read a section, ask three questions:

  1. What does it say?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What does it mean for me?

I usually write down the answers in a journal so I don’t forget them.

This is really all we need to do. Whatever God tells us in our reading will help us live sparkling lives. It’s a lot easier than washing windows!

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Photo: Pixabay

 

We’ve all heard the praises of the Mediterranean Diet. It seems to prevent whatever ailments might possibly befall us. While we are bombarded by hyperbole on the subject, details are sometimes scarce. One might think, given the hype, that we’d all understand exactly what it involves and the particulars of health issues it can address. But even I, nutrition geek that I am, did not fully understand them. So I conducted a bit of research and will lay out the basics here.

Why Eat the Mediterranean Diet?

It does seem this way of eating has a positive effect on many health issues. One of the most compelling is that it is a good weight loss plan without making you feel like you’re starving or being deprived. But it also helps regulate blood sugar. The caveat is to lower consumption of grains. (I’ll speak more to this point later.)

The Mediterranean Diet also works to prevent several scary health problems. It reduces the risk of depression, heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. That’s enough to cause almost anyone to make a lifestyle change and adopt the diet.

Basic Elements of the Mediterranean Diet

The diet is based on several foods:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Olive Oil and Olives
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Moderate amounts of Tree Nuts
  • Properly soaked Beans (soaked at least 7 hours and then cooked at least 7 hours or else pressure cooked)
  • Roasted and Skinned Tomatoes and Peppers
  • Tuberous Veggies
  • Greens and Herbs
  • Some Seasonal Fresh Fruit
  • Whole fat Yogurt and Cheese

Did you notice a conspicuous absence? Pasta is not a basic staple. Whole grains in moderation are part of the diet, but not a basic foundation. This is why it helps control blood sugar. Fetuccine Alfredo and breadsticks are not daily treats in the real Mediterranean world.

Common Myths Busted

Pasta and grains are not key. Olive oil is the key.

Fruits and Vegetables are not staples. Vegetables are staples, but fruits are not. Only a small amount of seasonal, fresh fruit is eaten. This is another reason the diet is good for blood sugar control.

Whole tomatoes are not beneficial. The skins are difficult to digest and should be removed. Roasting is a good way to accomplish this. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast in the oven. The skins will slip right off. Peppers also benefit from roasting and peeling as their skins and seeds contain the same anti-nutrients.

How to Eat the Mediterranean Diet

  1. Use olive oil instead of other oils or butter or margarine. Remember, olive oil is the key to the whole diet. Liberal amounts of olive oil will not cause weight gain.
  2. Reduce red meat consumption and aim for fish twice a week, more chicken, and some days when beans and nuts are the stars.
  3. Eat vegetables all day long. Add them to breakfast omelets, make salads a daily item, and serve a couple as sides or even the main dish at supper.
  4. Consume only small amounts of bread and grains, and make sure these are whole grain.
  5. Choose whole fat, plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit and a bit of honey. The protein content is much higher in Greek yogurt and the sugar content of whole fat dairy is much lower than in reduced- or no-fat dairy. Also choose hard cheeses. Parmesan and Romano are much higher in protein than other cheeses.
  6. Snack on nuts or seeds and olives and cheese.
  7. Make fruit your dessert.
  8. Take time to savor every bite.

Now you have the information necessary for making a lifestyle change. That’s really what this is. It is not a diet. It is a way of life. There is no going back to the way things were. The old ways were unhealthy and unproductive. Embrace the beautiful change.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 24, 2017

The Wild Side

I call myself a color girl. I love color. My clothes include many brights and intense deeps, my house does not conform to the currently popular neutral palette, and when I paint, it is for the sheer joy of playing with colors. I find it interesting that now, when neutrals and grays are all the rage, coloring books for adults are flying off the store shelves. Supposedly, the act of coloring is relaxing. But I wonder if it might be the colors themselves.

Color psychology tells us that each color evokes a different emotion. Some colors are more calming than others. Bright colors are invigorating and energizing. Muted shades are the snoozers. So, according to logic, we should paint and accessorize our bedrooms with soft hues and our living spaces with more punch.

But what if your personality longs for a walk on the wild side of color? I say, “Go for it!” My favorite flower gardens are a riot of colors all clashing and dancing together. Reds, purples, yellows, pinks, oranges, pops of lime green and splashes of white liven up cottage-style gardens. Why not bring that riot into your house?

Florals are making a come-back in fabrics, so drape your windows with your favorite and take color cues from the pattern to sprinkle around the room. Or toss bright patterned pillows on your bed or sofa. Oops, did I say bright colors on your bed? Yes. Spots of bright color won’t keep you awake at night.

I went shopping for a bedspread for a guest bedroom last week. I wanted a green, blue, and red pattern. What I found were mostly turquoise, taupe, and gray. I thought if I chose one of those, I’d be like a lemming, just following the crowd. I like turquoise, and I have some of it in my living room. But I don’t want it all over my house. I’ll keep looking.

My kitchen walls are unconventional, too. The sunny yellow-patterned wallpaper greets me every morning with its cheery hue. I’m happiest when surrounded by color.

I know people who prefer neutrals. They say those colors lend a sense of calm and order to otherwise chaotic lives. That’s fine. But I think they scream, “Boring!” Please don’t think I’m calling you a boring person if you prefer neutrals. I’m just saying I can’t live a happy life swathed in gray or beige.

When I look outside in the spring, summer, or fall, the world is clothed in vivid colors. God must love color, too. However, He did create the softer, neutral tones of winter whites and grays for balance. Many people who live in climates without four seasons say they long for winters.

Maybe I need to recognize the value of balance. I can deal with three-fourths bright color and one fourth neutrals as my guiding ratio.

On a more serious note, color does have strong effects on our emotional state. Take a critical look at the colors in your home decor and in your closet. What can you change to lift your spirits? What can you change to bring more balance? Does your environment currently bring you down or make you feel good? Don’t let what is popular determine your choices. Let your preferences lead you. In my case, that’s a walk on the wild side.

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My Kitchen Wallpaper”

Photo: Kathryn Graves

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 17, 2017

Are You Stressed?

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We hear a lot about stress, and we feel the effects of it on our bodies and our minds. But what is stress? Where does it come? Are there effects of stress we might not be aware of? How can we manage stress? All these questions bombarded me as I thought about writing on the subject. A brief effort to research stress almost stressed me out trying to sort through the large number of articles written about it. You might wonder why I should add one more.

My goal in this post is to do the research work for you and offer a condensed version of the information. When I’m faced with information overload on a subject, I usually end up ignoring it all and moving on to something else. I want to prevent that for you about stress.

Stress is one of those buzzwords that become meaningless from overuse. One physician concluded in a 1951 issue of the British Medical Journal that, “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” (1) Talk about confusing!

Good Stress and Bad Stress

But what was the original meaning? There are actually two kinds of stress: good stress and bad stress. The bad kind is what we usually think of. It is defined in the Merriam Dictionary as, “A state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.: something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety.” We’re all pretty familiar with that one. The good stress is “when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize and motivates people to accomplish more. This stress results in increased productivity–up to a point. After which, things go downhill. (2)

The bottom line is that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful–and that’s what stress is all about. (3)

Effects

Negative stress takes an emotional, physical, and spiritual toll on us. We’re all familiar with the feeling produced when somebody steps on our “last nerve.” We react, and it’s usually not pleasant. But did you know how closely entwined the emotional and physical are? Your brain and other functions of your body work together to control your emotions. It is easy for us to identify the effect of stress on our emotions, but it also wears down our bodies and our exhaustion contributes to spiritual neglect. Maybe that old scientist was right! It is all connected. So, if our lives produce negative stress because we can’t control the pressures placed on us, then the question becomes, “How can I manage stress?

Physical Management

You might be surprised how much can be gained by paying attention to our bodies in this area. When we provide them the nutrients needed and make some lifestyle adjustments, the emotions will calm.

As far as eating habits go, eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Eat more healthy fats (like avocados, tree nuts, and olive oil), vegetables and some fruits (berries are best). Did you know that one Starbucks coffee drink contains more caffeine than an energy drink like Red Bull? (4) Not to mention all the sugar.

If you’re used to drinking a lot of coffee or other high-caffeine drinks, missing a cup can make you edgy, tired and irritable. It is a vicious cycle because caffeine causes fatigue and jitteriness. However, caffeine withdrawal only lasts a few days. After that, your body will calm down.

Sugary foods and carbohydrate-dense foods also increase the heart rate, mess with blood sugar levels, produce tiredness, and increase mental fuzziness.

However, good proteins like lean poultry, fish and eggs and non-starchy vegetables help stabilize blood sugar levels while providing energy. A higher-fat (as in healthy fats mentioned above) diet can even reduce anxiety levels. (5)

Some supplements that can calm us include the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, Magnesium, L-theanine and GLA. Take a high-potency B-complex vitamin with 25 to 50 mg of B1, B2, B3 and B6. Did you know that the first symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency are irritability and fatigue? (6)

Magnesium is a muscle relaxer and L-theanine relaxes alpha brain waves. This is the active ingredient in green tea and what makes it a calming drink, in spite of the small amount of caffeine it contains.

Lifestyle Management

Try not to multi-task. It is far more efficient to focus on a single task at a time. Switching between activities helps give the mind a break and can be refreshing. Try alternating thought-intensive jobs with mindless activities like chopping vegetables.

Schedule time for meal preparation and eating so you don’t feel rushed. This can be one of the most difficult things for working moms to do, but it is important for the whole family. Priorities will need to be examined and changes made. Everyone will benefit from the interaction and opportunity to converse that dinner time affords.

Get adequate exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, the feel-good hormone. It also gets the lymph system moving and improves mental clarity. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is optimal. I like the stretching and balance involved in yoga, but find what you like to do and do it.

Go outdoors. Walking or running in a park, playing frisbee with your dog, gardening, anything you enjoy doing outside is good for stress-reduction. Even in the winter, get out there whenever possible. Find activities you can do in your location.

Spiritual Magangement

Spend a few minutes every day (preferably at least 30) by yourself in prayer and Bible reading. Much new research is pointing to meditation as helpful in managing stress and chronic illness. This word can have many connotations, but for the Christian, it means focusing on Scripture. Choose a verse or passage to read and think upon. Ask God what He wants you to learn from it. Journal about it.

A daily quiet time with God helps us discipline our minds. Rather than allow our crazy lives to control us, we can counter with mental discipline. Romans 12:2 says to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” and 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us “we have the mind of Christ.” Mark 12:30 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” We need to make a conscious effort to think about the right things. What are those? Philippians 4:8 tells us. “Whatsoever things are true…noble…just…pure…lovely…of good report…any virtue…anything praiseworthy–think on these things.”

Does that sound like a lot? Like it might just be too hard? Remember, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22) Jesus wants us to succeed in minimizing our stress level so we can experience the abundant life He came to give us. He helps us in ways we don’t even understand because He prays for us and the Holy Spirit comforts us. “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27) Who are the saints? Born-again believers.

Attend church every week. This will set a pattern for your week, but also helps you draw closer to God. For a couple of hours, we can stop thinking about all the pressures on us and simply worship. Church attendance is a weekly re-set button for me. It helps me focus on what is really important. It also places me in a social group of like-minded people. These are the ones who become my closest friends and my support network. Somehow everything seems easier to manage when we are in community with others.

All these actions, when taken together, will make a huge difference in your stress level. And above all, you will “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:32)

 

Notes:

(1) The American Institute of Stress website http://www.stress.org

(2) ibid

(3) ibid

(4) Jack Challum, The Food-Mood Solution, p.187

(5) ibid

(6) Challum, p.188-189

Photo: Pixabay

 

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 10, 2017

The Fragrance of Friendship

Do you have a best friend? Friendship has several categories, doesn’t it? Casual friends are those we socialize with at work functions or at church. We know them. We consider them more than just an acquaintance, but they’re not in our inner circle. Others are closer to us, and we often interact with them. But only a few are what we would consider best friends.

What makes someone a best friend? It goes beyond similar interests or having grown up together. A best friend is a person who is loyal and trustworthy. You can tell her anything and be confident she won’t tell anyone else. She’s there for you no matter what, and she sticks up for you when others criticize. These are the qualities that push a casual friendship into BFF territory.

Sometimes it takes a crises to find out who our best friends are.

One of our sons got married in another state. As parents of the groom, we were responsible for the rehearsal dinner. The town was small, offering no catering establishments. We were on our own, so we decided to barbecue in a local park. Since we  didn’t have time to actually cook at the dinner, we prepared the food ahead of time, and planned to warm it in the church kitchen while the rehearsal took place.

Two couples, who are friends of ours, traveled to help us with the dinner. They warmed the food in the kitchen. But they didn’t know how to operate the ovens. They put a foil-covered pan of meat inside, set what they thought was a reasonable temperature and time, and turned their attention to other preparations. All at once, the kitchen filled with smoke. It was the meat. When they yanked it from the smoking oven, bits of foil floated in the air. To their horror, bits of foil also lay embedded in the meat.

This was the main course. The dinner started in a few minutes. There was no other source available at 8:00 p.m. in the small town for meat. So the group peered through the smoke and tackled the job of pulling out the bits of foil.

Those of us in the wedding party arrived at the park to a beautifully decorated venue just after the sun set. Candlelight glowed over the happy, excited crowd. Our friends served the guests a delicious dinner. Many compliments came our way on the food. We beamed and sighed. The event seemed a success.

The next day, in the light of day, while we prepared for the wedding, our friends took a closer look at the leftover meat. What they found horrified them. Bits of foil still clung to it. After the wedding, they used casual conversation to check with the bridal party to make sure no one had felt ill during the night. Nobody seemed to notice foil in their teeth.

After the last guests departed, and we gathered back at the home where we stayed, they finally told us what had happened. Since it all turned out okay, we were able to laugh at the antics described. Fourteen years later, we still laugh about the situation.

Only your best friends will go the extra mile (sometimes literally) to take care of you.

What does the Bible say about friendship? Proverbs has a lot to say on the subject. In 17:17 it tells us a friend loves at all times, and 12:26 says the righteous should choose his friends carefully.

We all know that wrong friends can lead to a bunch of trouble and heartache, don’t we?

Proverbs 18:24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Siblings can become some of our best friends, but often the rivalry of childhood never seems able to disappear completely.

My favorite verse about friendship in Proverbs is 27:9. “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” (NKJ) What do you suppose “hearty counsel” means? God’s Word translation includes a note that this might be “sincere advice.” A best friend will give us advice that is godly and thought-out and in our best interest. She will search resources to find the best answer or solution for whatever it is we need. And I love the comparison of a good friend to the fragrance of perfume.

What does Jesus have to say about friendship? In John 15:15, He says, “I have called you friends.” (NKJ) Have you ever thought of yourself as Jesus’ friend? Do you act like a friend to Him? Are you loyal, do you demonstrate your love for him at all times?

He is that for us. And guess what? He considers our friendship as perfume. Second Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God…” (NASB) The Phillips translation expands on this to say, “We are like a lovely perfume and have the unmistakeable scent of Christ.”

Maybe we should create a new perfume and name it “BFF–Best Friend Fragrance.”

“Still Life”         Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 3, 2017

Creating Space

Your Schedule

What does your schedule look like for today? What sorts of activities fill your typical day? If you work a 40-hour per week job, then eight hours will be spent at work. Eight will, or at least should, be spent sleeping. What about the other eight hours? Do family and church responsibilities take up most of them? Do you include any time in your day just for yourself?

Your “Building”

Last week I wrote about eating healthy food because the Bible tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Keeping the physical “building” in good repair is crucial. The book of Ezra tells us how difficult it was for the people to re-build the temple after it had been destroyed. Building a building is hard work, often filled with obstacles and delays. But without the building, proper worship could not happen, and the people’s focus and attention would wander to other gods and religions.

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“A Cathedral”            Pixabay

That said, what happened in the temple? You’re probably thinking, “Worship. Duh!” And you’re right. But what did that involve and why was it important? The people came to the temple to offer sacrifices for their sins and to hear the Scripture read aloud. A choir and orchestra sang and played songs to glorify God. The whole focus was on communicating with God.

You As a Temple

If your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as 1 Corinthians 3:16 says it is, what does that mean in practical terms? The body is where worship happens. Our whole focus needs to be on communicating with God. This takes the form of worship songs, Scripture reading, and prayer. The Bible also tells us our prayers rise like the smoke of incense before the Lord. We use our voices, our eyes, our physical posture, our hands, all the parts of our body when we worship.

I know what you’re thinking. How can my whole life be devoted to prayer, Bible reading and singing when I already meet myself coming and going? Am I supposed to join a convent or become a recluse?

The lives we live can become so crowded with other things that we go entire days, even weeks, without giving God more than a passing thought. When we allow this to happen, our temple becomes hollow and useless, even if it still stands in beautiful splendor. I’m sure you’re like me and have no desire to become useless. So what are we to do?

Create Space

We must be intentional about creating space for worship in our lives. Every day needs to include a block of time when we focus solely on the Lord and spend time praying, reading the Bible and singing worship songs. You’ve probably heard how “margins” is a popular buzz word for a healthy and productive life. The idea of blocking out daily time for God is creating a margin, or space, in which God can become real. Like the white space around the pages in a book, we need space around our edges for God–and in the middle, like paragraph breaks. But we also need a whole blank page offered to Him each day.

You don’t have to write anything. But you do have to focus. You might have to rearrange your priorities. Maybe get up an hour earlier or go to bed a little later. Or move your lunch spot to a solitary location. Whatever it takes to make it happen, it will be worth it. Over time, this will become your favorite part of the day.

Beautiful Results

Making space for God, making sure our bodies really do function as temples, will make us more beautiful. Real beauty radiates outward from our eyes. Our eyes are the physical way our soul sees out of our bodies. When your soul is fed and in tune with God, who is the very essence of beauty, His beauty shows in your eyes. Another product of time spent worshipping is that the rest of our schedule may change. Our priorities will continue to shift in response to our worship experiences.

When we understand what makes our temple alive and meaningful, the alternative of a hollow facade, no matter how fit, healthy or dressed up it might be, seems unattractive, at best.

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | April 26, 2017

Temple Food

The Bible is not the first place many of us look to find out how we should eat. But some diet plans are based on principles found in Scripture. Rather than a strict diet plan, I prefer to choose my foods based on principle.

Paul talked about needing to discipline his body in 1 Corinthians 9:27, and he taught that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 6:19. Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. When I put these all together, I can’t help but believe that how I treat my body is important. Daniel knew this when he asked to be given vegetables and fruit with water to drink instead of the rich delicacies of palace cuisine.

The reason behind eating simple, nutritious food and keeping our bodies fit is because it makes us stronger, healthier, and able to go about the business God has called us to. We are of no use when we are too sick to function. Even our emotions are wrapped up in our physical health. Hormonal balance, and the emotional stability that comes with it, is rooted in physical well-being.

There are some diseases we cannot avoid simply by eating right and exercising, but most will stay away if we make an effort in this area.

Do you know what diseases and disorders are caused by inflammation? The simple answer is, most of them. Cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, colitis, diverticulitis. Yes, everything that ends in “-itis” is most likely caused by inflammation.

What are the most common prescriptions for dealing with these diseases? Anti-inflammatory drugs (think NSAIDs) and the little purple capsule. While they work, most are not intended for long-term use. So what is a person to do?

Jack Challem, in his book, The Inflammation Syndrome, asserts that food is the best cure for what ails us. Just like the wrong foods, and too much of them, can make us sick, the right foods, in the right amounts, can help us get better. He does not, nor do I, say that food can cure cancer, but it can ease, or even get rid of, the symptoms of many diseases.

Where to begin? Start with whole foods. Most of you know this is my soap box. Much of the “food” we buy is not food at all. Last weekend, I picked up a bag of onion-flavored snack “chips” to read the label. There was not one ingredient I recognized as a real food! One sure way to avoid fake food is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh and frozen foods are located. Skip the middle of the store where processed foods lurk. I try to buy foods with no labels. If I buy a package, I aim for only one item on the ingredient list. (Examples are a bottle of olive oil or a jar of diced tomatoes.) Beware frozen vegetables with sauce already in them. Just go for the basic, plain ones.

When I’m ready to cook my produce and meat, I use a lot of herbs and spices to dress them up. These not only make simple foods taste extravagant, but they add nutritional value too.

Breakfast can be eggs cooked with olive oil or a smoothie made from plain Greek yogurt and frozen berries. If you want to make a smoothie without the dairy, substitute pea protein powder.

Lunch for me is usually a salad. Jack Challem calls his lunch salad a rainbow salad because he tries to include something from each color of the rainbow. I took his advice and now I’m hooked. I always include half an avocado and a handful of chopped walnuts because it is the fat that keeps me feeling full all afternoon. My dressing is a little salt, pepper, a flavored balsamic vinegar and olive oil–and I’m generous with the olive oil. If I can’t eat at home, I try to eat where I can get a good salad. In this case, I’ll add chicken since avocado is usually not offered. The extra protein also helps me feel full.

Supper is any combination of cooked veggies and meat, chicken, or fish. There are all kinds of sources for recipes if you like to cook and want to be creative. Clean Eating Magazine is one of my favorites. All their recipes are made from whole foods.

If I do need a snack, my go-to is an apple sprinkled with cinnamon and dipped in fresh almond butter. Not the kind in a jar. The kind your store makes fresh on-site, or that you make at home with a food processor. My organic grocery makes fresh almond butter, so I buy mine rather than make it. A great after-dinner snack is one ounce of at least 70% dark chocolate with hot green tea.

A word about drinks. Water is always best, but a glass of unsweetened iced tea hits the spot for me on warmer days. Green tea should be the choice for hot drinks, but some coffee is okay.

You may have noticed there are no grains in my meal plans. That’s because I am sensitive to them. Some rice or quinoa is fine, but not every day. My favorite food is probably any kind of bread, so this is difficult for me to stick to. I decided that in order to make this plan work for the rest of my life, I needed some leeway. So I do eat grains on occasion.

I also avoid any food that is a substitute for another, such as gluten-free or sugar-free. If the offending ingredient is taken out, something has to be put in its place to make it taste right. Usually the substitute ingredient is something I can’t pronounce or is a combination of things, none of which is nutritious. If I want something sweet, or a fabulous roll, I eat the real thing, just not very often.

What about days (or weeks) when I fail to eat the way I plan? As soon as I can, I start over. I refuse to let any stretch of non-compliance rob me of the ability to return to what I know is best. My goal is really 80/20. If I eat only whole, nutritious food 80 percent of the time, it feels like success. If I can do it all the time for a few weeks, I can get over an unsettled tummy. If I fail completely (especially with grains) for more than a week, I end up taking antacids, and my body pulls me back into a healthy routine again.

My motivation to change my eating patterns was a cancer diagnosis. I hope you don’t wait for a devastating diagnosis to begin your journey with whole food eating.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | April 19, 2017

Burned Dirt

Driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas the other day, I topped a hill and caught my breath. As far as I could see on both sides of the road, the ground was charred. This part of the country has few trees, so what I saw was acres of burned grass. To be honest, I think I looked at burned dirt. No grass remained.

What happened here? I wondered. I know the ranchers burn in the spring, so maybe that was it. I also know drivers sometimes toss cigarette butts from their cars that spark fires. And there have been numerous electrical thunderstorms in the area recently. I never found out the cause, but it didn’t matter. The result was the same–burned dirt.

It looked like nothing could ever grow there again. Only smoking, hopeless nothing was left. But I knew better. Ranchers burn the fields to rid them of unwanted undergrowth inhibiting prairie grasses and to add nutrients to the ground. Because I’ve lived on the prairie for years, I’ve seen green sprout out of burned ground. My experience tells me what will happen, even if my eyes tell me it can’t. Even if I’d never seen it, the experts would tell me grass will grow there again.

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Photo: Pixabay

I couldn’t help thinking about Isaiah 61:3, “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (NKJV)

Has there been a fire in your life? Do things look bleak? Does it seem as if nothing good can come of recent circumstances?

There are several reasons we experience scorched earth times.

  1. God, as the expert rancher, knows we need to be rid of weeds and start over.
  2. We cause the fire by our own actions, whether we realized what could happen or not.
  3. Someone else starts a fire and it jumps the fence onto us.
  4. We live in a lighting-filled world.

No matter how bad it seems, there is life in the ground. God will do something new. If you are a child of the King, His Spirit lives inside you and never leaves you. Even if you lose everything and everyone else, you still have Him, and He has a plan for you–a good plan.

My cancer treatment made me feel like burned dirt. I told the doctor I felt like I’d been burned alive and stabbed to death at the same time. My hair was gone and my body had been tortured. I lost hope for a few weeks. But then I spotted tiny new hairs on my head, new medicine eased the pain, and fresh scars began to heal. Today I feel beautiful. My experience tells me God did not abandon me. He wanted to get rid of the weeds and do a new thing.

I won’t say God caused my cancer, but He saw it coming and didn’t stop it. Like Jesus, when he heard Lazarus was dying, did not rush to Bethany to heal him. Instead, He delayed until Lazarus died. Jesus wanted to do something bigger and raise him from the dead.

I have a friend who lost custody of his children to the court because of drug abuse. He tells people today that even though it seemed like his life was over, God used his loss to begin something new. My friend is a new man after treatment and a fresh relationship with Jesus Christ. His children came home, and he now helps other addicts.

Another friend suffered abuse and loss of contact with family because of the choices her son made. But after years of relentless effort and prayers, some of her relationships are restored. She says the most important thing is her relationship with the Lord and His care for her.

I could go on, but you get the picture. There is life in your burned dirt. You can let God trade beauty for those ashes. He wants to make you a tree, not just a clump of grass–a beautiful, flowering tree with deep roots.

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Photo: Pixabay

Why does God allow us to go through personal prairie fires? So when new trees grow out of burned dirt, we are stronger, more beautiful, and He gets the glory.

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