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Hallelujah! Christ arose!

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

Empty Cross

On this Good Friday, it is important to remember: one tragic, ill-advised and cruel event changed everything. Despite all the ways God’s loved people have misconstrued it all, despite the multiple religions that claim to know it all, despite every doubting Thomas, Christ’s act of sacrifice rings through the ages. The people at the foot of the Cross did not know that in three days Resurrection would happen. They only knew their friend and teacher was dead at the hands of jealous and fearful men. The first Tenebrae service I ever attended was shatteringly emotional. I’d never seen the altar striped, the Cross draped in black, the light extinguished. The worshipers leaving in silence and reflection. Even knowing the outcome would be Resurrection Day – Up From the Grave He Arose – it brought home what was done to Christ the Savior. It brought home what He did for me.
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Exercise and healthy eating

Fighting diabetes by making good choices

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity. Being obese is defined as a health issue, not a personal flaw. There are good reasons for that. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

Image: clipart.com

The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. in 2008 (the most recent published study I could find) was $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

It isn’t any surprise that obesity is linked to over consumption of sodas, high fat fast foods, and most of the processed foods you pull off the grocery shelf, coupled with sedentary life styles. Everything you read indicates the trend is to eat more and exercise less. In the name of convenience we load up our grocery carts without spending five seconds figuring out what we will be putting on our family’s dinner plates or in their lunch boxes. Convenient rarely adds up to healthy.

According to reports by the National Institute on Health, obesity in the U.S. has soared from four percent to more than 34 percent in the last 50 years. In an age when we can have whatever we want if we’re willing to work for it, the one problem we can’t seem to solve is obesity.

Some analysts project that in 20 years the cost to taxpayers for obesity-related illnesses will exceed $550 billion. Why? Because many of those who overeat unhealthy foods are in lower income brackets. They live in urban areas considered food deserts where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited. Fast food and convenience stores dominate the landscape. Even though many chain restaurants, like McDonalds, offer healthy choices, the big sellers continue to be fat and salt loaded burgers and fries, served with high-sugar sodas large enough to bathe in.

There are those who say, “People who eat too much have a choice; nobody is holding a gun to their heads to force them to eat a bag of chips instead of an apple.” Perhaps, but only if you can find an apple to buy. Yes, self-restraint is up to the individual. The reality is a generation of people who grew up on super-sized everything from burgers to Big Gulps. One eight-ounce serving of Coke may have only 97 calories, but the double or triple sized version has double or triple the calories. A single serving of chips (and what that constitutes varies from brand to brand) might be listed as 150 calories, but if you look closer there are 24 servings in a bag. Multiply that out and see what you get. How many times have you sat down to eat a “handful of chips” and before you know it, consumed half or more of the bag? This, by the way, is the very reason I rarely buy chips. The allure of that salty goodness is too hard to ignore, and allure is what the food manufactures are selling, from the packaging to the fat-laden contents. The more you eat, the more you want. Remember the commercial that challenges the consumer to “just eat one,” followed by the assertion that no one can eat just one? The hidden message is, “Eat all you want.” When we trick ourselves into believing the bigger version is just one serving we’re paving the road ahead with poor health and bigger waistlines.

Food and beverage congGetty Image - webmd.comlomerates do have an interest in nutrition, I’m sure, but their bottom line is to sell you and me on buying more and consuming more. The consequence is a surge in the number of people — young and old — with health problems. Children 11 and 12 have the arteries of 45 year old men, and many are showing symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Efforts to control behavior through legislation are doomed to fail. Fighting obesity requires moderation in consumption, better food choices, regular exercise and a commitment to good health. The added benefit is a longer life.

Despite being in a rural area, Las Vegas (New Mexico) is not a food desert. Most people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether that is the choice made is another matter. San Miguel County has a high rate of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in a state that ranks number 10 across the country in that category.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a personal choice. There is plenty of help for those who want to take charge of their well being. Whether you are tuning in to an exercise video on www.sparkpeople.tv or trying out the Mediterranean Diet, making good choices will lead to better health.

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I Believe

Easter LilyWe are beginning the season of Lent and will soon celebrate Easter. Every year about this time television (mostly cable) runs programming about the “truth” of the resurrection, how much of the Bible is verifiable, whether Judas was a betrayer or following the will of the Most High God. Did Jesus really die and then come to life again, or was his body taken by the disciples and everything else a myth? The questions are limitless.

It intrigues me that in the quest for truth in these programs, the messages from Christ are lost along the way. Did he walk on water? Does it matter? Did he feed 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread? In what way do these miracles make Christ more or less believable? Were you there? Did you see?

These programs often miss the message of both the Old and New Testaments: love one another. What does that mean? It means to serve others, and that takes many forms. Not everyone can be a preacher or a teacher, a rabbi or a priest, but everyone can serve where she or he is.

  • Kindness.
  • Friendship.
  • Thoughtfulness.
  • Understanding.
  • Mercy.
  • Nurture.
  • Listening.
  • Faithfulness.
  • Respect.
  • Integrity.
  • Truth.
  • Succor.
  • Comfort.
  • Compassion.

These are one-word descriptions of what service might look like. The Easter story is about transformation. We are transformed and made better every time we reach out to others. We arise each morning to new life and new opportunities. What we do with that is up to us.

 

 

Courage in the chaos

Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

PrayerIt is normal to slide into panic when life surprises you in negative ways, but it is not in your best interest to stay there. Panic overload leads to poor decisions, causes words to be spoken that cannot be taken back, and generally keeps a person’s life in a state of uncertainty bordering on chaos. God is present. He can find us when we can’t seem to find him. His promise is to never leave us come what may. Each day brings opportunity, and yes, challenges. The challenges that create opportunities to get closer to God – and to each other – often prove to be the events that lead to enrichment.

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Image: http://www.clipart.com

Made with love

Lanie's QuiltI made my first quilt. Not that I haven’t made quilts, I have, but always the tie kind. I’ve never actually made an honest to goodness quilted quilt. I’m proud of the finished product, not so much because of the perfection of the end result (it is FAR from perfect), but because I didn’t give up when I made one mistake after another. In fact, within a week of finishing it, I all but threw up my hands and said, “I’m done!”

My final setback (after countless other setbacks that will go unnamed), came when I realized I’d attached the binding in such a way that I couldn’t finish off the corners in a neat and tidy fashion. When it didn’t seem to be working the way I thought it should, I made a major mistake and trimmed one corner thinking that would solve the problem. Uh… no! I’d   made it WORSE. Imagine my surprise when I found, after checking out instructions on the Internet and two days of pulling my hair, I’d done it right all along. My mistake was how I attached the binding. I should have sewn it to the back and pulled the binding to the front. I was frustrated and began to think it was so incredibly WRONG! The temptation to give up was intense, in fact I told my husband I was going to go out and buy a baby quilt for my soon-to-be-born great niece.

Ah, right, the reason I took on this project was to make something with my own hands and heart that would reflect my love for this precious child. I couldn’t give up. No matter what, I wanted to finish it and I’m proud to say I did, and in time for the baby’s shower on Saturday.

I will go out and buy some things for my great-niece, but I hope she will grow up knowing this handmade quilt was made with love interwoven with prayers for her to be healthy, happy and passionate about life. The quirky secrets hidden within the mistakes are my prayers for her to find plenty to laugh about, even when things don’t go her way. She is coming into a family who will cherish her, and give loving support to her mom and dad.

I can’t wait to see her.

Spare Room Initiative

Peace LilyIt’s happening in Europe, Australia and Canada. Can it happen here? The idea is that if you have a spare room, you can make it available for use by a refugee or a college student or even someone trying to turn his or her life around. In one instance a Syrian refugee was invited to move in with a couple in Kreuzberg, a trendy section of Berlin. The Syrian and the Berliner, both males, are web developers. That’s about all they have in common. Their differences have led to friendship and appreciation for each others cultures. This is one small example of making the world a better place, one person, one act at a time. There is obviously much more to this story as it relates to compensation and other considerations, but it reflects the best of who we are as people willing to reach out and help one another.
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Peace Lily Image: clipart.com

How, or Who?

Candle LightLikewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

How? That’s the one word question we ask when a crisis arises. How am I going to get through this? How can God possibly fix this? How will I face tomorrow when today is so painful? How will other people think of me when they find out the messy lives my loved ones lead? How will my loved ones get through this? How? How? How? The question isn’t how, but Who? Who will get me through this? Who is at work in the lives of all? Who has promised to be with those who call upon his name? Who will pray for and with me when I have no words of my own because I don’t even know what to ask for? Who? God, whose love is profound and indescribable; God, who knows the hearts of all; God, whose very Spirit breathes through us and renews us and guides us.
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Image: clipart.com

From the heart

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

Child

Did you hear about the four-year-old who loaded up her Barbie car with toys and took them to a family whose house had burned down? It happened, and her gesture inspired others to send cards of encouragement, money, and yes, more toys for the family’s three children who lost everything in the fire. We never know when the opportunity will come to reach out and help someone. We don’t need to be a global company with the power and the financial wherewithal of Bill and Linda Gates to make a difference. We aren’t required to change the world. We are asked to love one another by our acts and by our choices, one person, one gift, one smile at a time.

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Image: clipart.com

Wisdom

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels… (Proverbs 1:5)

Listen and you will hear...Whether it is the song of a lark or the laughter of a child, the confidence of a friend or the oratory of a gifted speaker, the voice of God in the whisper of the wind or leaves rustling in the trees on a summer morning, we are privy every day to the joy and the heartbreak of listening. We need both. We must be ready for both. In our listening we can be a comforter, a friend, an advocate, the servant doing what the Lord has prepared for us to do. But only if we listen, only if we take time to hear. The world is a cacophony of noise, a discordant symphony made up of messages informed more by our preconceived notions than by truth. Or distractions get in the way of hearing anything but our own opinion. God with us, Jesus our Redeemer, unclogs our ears and opens us to the voice of God, the voice of nature, and the voices of those who so desperately need for us to hear them. Listen and you will hear…

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These short readings will be included in 365 Ways to Make the World a Better Place (working title). I welcome short personal essays about what you believe will make the world a better place. Experiences that have made a difference in your life and the lives of others are welcome. With permission, I will use the item in my book. If you would like to send an item for consideration, e-mail to fsharon@msn.com. In the subject line enter 365 Ways.

 

A Better Day

Hang in there

Romans 5:3-4 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

One Drop at a TimePerseverance is an important tool in the toolbox of hope. When ingrained doubts assail you, when little rejections batter your confidence, when failure erodes your determination, whittles away at resolve, and undermines creativity, hang in there. Perseverance is the drop of water in the pool of life that allows the most unlikely of things to happen. And don’t you want to be a part of that? One local church wanted to distribute backpacks to students at the beginning of the school year. It didn’t take long to realize the church couldn’t do it alone. It reached out to other churches and individuals, and before long they had enough funding put together to distribute more than two hundred back packs. Imagine if that first church had given up?

 

Be happy, it’s a place to start

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30 (NIV)

Sunflowers in Northern New MexicoHappy people are healthier, which in turn helps them heal faster when they are ill. That’s a scientific fact, according to Greater Good at UC Berkley. An independent study published in Canada in 2010, revealed improved health in happy people over a ten-year period. It has also been my observation over time. I’ve seen morose people’s health wane rather quickly when they are ill, which can often be tied to their poor outlook and fear of the worst. People who are innately happy seem to weather health storms stoically, or with humor. Faith plays a role in that because faith affects attitude. Look on the bright side. It really does help.
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These short reading will be included in a book I’m working on entitled 365 Ways to Make the World a Better Place (working title). I value your thoughts and comments. I also welcome short personal essays about what you believe will make the world a better place. Experiences that have made a difference in your life and the lives of others are welcome. The experiences can be yours or the story of someone you know. With permission, I will use the item in my book. If you would like to send an item for consideration, e-mail item to fsharon@msn.com. In the subject line enter 365 Ways.