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No Pain, No Problem

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: iStock Exercise does your heart and immune system good. But there’s a limit. Over exercising may actually do a body harm. So what’s the best way to gauge the intensity of your workout? An ongoing study of Harvard men who graduated before 1950 suggests that if exercise feels hard, you’re on the right track.“Don’t get stuck in a rut,” researchers advise. “As your body adapts to exercise, you’ll need to push yourself more and more to get the same cardiovascular workout.” Another sign that it’s time to pick up the pace is when you notice your weight or waist size creeping up.

Heart disease proved less common among those who reported the vigor of their workout as “moderate or intense.” An exercise regimen that speeds up your heart and allows you to break a sweat is optimal. But beware. Avoid workouts that cause uncomfortable shortness of breath, profuse sweating in cold or mild weather, feelings of unsteadiness, or substantial fatigue or muscle pain. As in all things, temperance is best. (Harvard Heart Letter/Consumer Reports)
______________________________

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life, March/April 2004. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

Real Cost of Upsizing

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: Zando Escultura Bigger portion sizes make you eat more, even if you think the food tastes terrible, according to a new study from Cornell University. Portion size is now thought to be as influential as taste in determining whether we overeat. This study found that moviegoers given large buckets of popcorn ate 34 percent more than those given a medium-sized container. Yet 77 percent thought they would eat the same amount regardless of the container size.

So while people appreciate that portion size influences the amount of food others consume, they think they’ll not be affected.

Upsizing Fuels Weight Gain
Watching portion size is a key factor to help people lose and maintain a lower weight. Yet one study of U.S. fast food restaurants showed that portion sizes have increased by up to 62 percent over a 20 year period!

By upsizing from small to large fries or from a medium to large muffin, for example, you get approximately 200 calories more, and these extra calories do add up.

It is now recognized that consuming simply 100 calories more per day than what your body needs is the chief culprit in the alarming trend toward obesity!

Preventing Portion Distortion When Eating Out:
* Order the entrée-sized meal
* Share a main meal with a friend
* Order mineral water or herbal/fruit teas and small soda drinks/juices
* Share your dessert with a friend
* Order the small-size snack foods and don’t supersize
* Read food labels and check the portion size recommended
* Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants.

At home:
* Prepare  precise amounts of food
* Use smaller plates and bowls
* Fill at least half of your plate with salad or steamed vegetables
* Carefully measure portions of rice, potato, or other carbohydrates
* If you eat meat, limit the serving to the size of a pack of cards
* Freeze leftovers in single-portion containers, e.g., 2 cups.

For a visual illustration of portion distortion, check out The National Heart Lung Blood Institute quiz: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion

Respond to this article
________________________________

By Sue Radd. Reprinted with permission from Signs of the Times, May 2015. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Breastfeeding Benefits

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: Dreamstime A recent analysis revealed that if 90% of American women would breastfeed their babies for the first six months, the lives of 900 babies would be saved, along with billions of dollars in healthcare costs.[1] The health benefits of breastfeeding are incredible, with more being discovered each year. Breast milk contains antibodies to help protect babies from disease and has been shown to reduce a baby’s risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, lower respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).[2] Additionally, breast milk is easier for babies to digest and its nutrients are more readily absorbed by a baby’s body.

The baby isn’t the only one to benefit from breastfeeding, either. Breastfeeding mothers have reduced rates of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Nursing gives the mother relaxed time to bond with her baby and releases oxytocin, a calming hormone. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers also enjoy more sleep, contrary to the popular idea that formula-fed babies sleep better.[3] Breastfeeding requires no mixing of formula or sterilizing bottles and reduces the number of baby items you have to tote in your diaper bag. It saves money, too!

Misinformation

Despite these benefits, many mothers are not breastfeeding their babies. Some are unable to breastfeed for health reasons. Others are held back by cultural stigma or misinformation about how breastfeeding may change their bodies. And many stop nursing in the early weeks, overwhelmed by challenges they did not anticipate.

When I began my breastfeeding journey, I was quickly frustrated and overwhelmed. Since breastfeeding was the “natural” thing to do, I expected it to come naturally! I didn’t anticipate the learning curve. Women may face everything from clogged ducts and mastitis to supply issues and latch problems. These difficulties may be overcome with proper support. It is critical for women to educate themselves during pregnancy and develop a strong support system. Find a breastfeeding support group in your area. Make sure your hospital is lactation friendly. Read, read, and READ. Ask questions of friends who have breastfed. If you don’t have any, look for online communities like mothering.com. Make sure your pediatrician is supportive and informed.

And then, after those first few weeks, the challenges diminish. Mothers suddenly realize that breastfeeding is becoming second nature. They pop the baby on and baby's happy gulps make them smile. They latch the baby quickly at night and their sleep improves. Mothers realize they can nurse at the grocery store without having a minor panic attack. Knowing that they are giving their baby the best start they can, makes every difficult moment worth the effort!

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______________________________

By Danae Schilt. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

[1] CBS News: More Breastfeeding Could Save 900 Babies a Year
[2] WomensHealth.gov: Why Breastfeeding is Important
[3] USAToday: Study, Breastfeeding Won’t Rob Mom of Sleep

No Pain, No Problem

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: iStock Exercise does your heart and immune system good. But there’s a limit. Over exercising may actually do a body harm. So what’s the best way to gauge the intensity of your workout? An ongoing study of Harvard men who graduated before 1950 suggests that if exercise feels hard, you’re on the right track.“Don’t get stuck in a rut,” researchers advise. “As your body adapts to exercise, you’ll need to push yourself more and more to get the same cardiovascular workout.” Another sign that it’s time to pick up the pace is when you notice your weight or waist size creeping up.

Heart disease proved less common among those who reported the vigor of their workout as “moderate or intense.” An exercise regimen that speeds up your heart and allows you to break a sweat is optimal. But beware. Avoid workouts that cause uncomfortable shortness of breath, profuse sweating in cold or mild weather, feelings of unsteadiness, or substantial fatigue or muscle pain. As in all things, temperance is best. (Harvard Heart Letter/Consumer Reports)
______________________________

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life, March/April 2004. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

Real Cost of Upsizing

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: Zando Escultura Bigger portion sizes make you eat more, even if you think the food tastes terrible, according to a new study from Cornell University. Portion size is now thought to be as influential as taste in determining whether we overeat. This study found that moviegoers given large buckets of popcorn ate 34 percent more than those given a medium-sized container. Yet 77 percent thought they would eat the same amount regardless of the container size.

So while people appreciate that portion size influences the amount of food others consume, they think they’ll not be affected.

Upsizing Fuels Weight Gain
Watching portion size is a key factor to help people lose and maintain a lower weight. Yet one study of U.S. fast food restaurants showed that portion sizes have increased by up to 62 percent over a 20 year period!

By upsizing from small to large fries or from a medium to large muffin, for example, you get approximately 200 calories more, and these extra calories do add up.

It is now recognized that consuming simply 100 calories more per day than what your body needs is the chief culprit in the alarming trend toward obesity!

Preventing Portion Distortion When Eating Out:
* Order the entrée-sized meal
* Share a main meal with a friend
* Order mineral water or herbal/fruit teas and small soda drinks/juices
* Share your dessert with a friend
* Order the small-size snack foods and don’t supersize
* Read food labels and check the portion size recommended
* Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants.

At home:
* Prepare  precise amounts of food
* Use smaller plates and bowls
* Fill at least half of your plate with salad or steamed vegetables
* Carefully measure portions of rice, potato, or other carbohydrates
* If you eat meat, limit the serving to the size of a pack of cards
* Freeze leftovers in single-portion containers, e.g., 2 cups.

For a visual illustration of portion distortion, check out The National Heart Lung Blood Institute quiz: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion

Respond to this article
________________________________

By Sue Radd. Reprinted with permission from Signs of the Times, May 2015. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Breastfeeding Benefits

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:00
Photo: Dreamstime A recent analysis revealed that if 90% of American women would breastfeed their babies for the first six months, the lives of 900 babies would be saved, along with billions of dollars in healthcare costs.[1] The health benefits of breastfeeding are incredible, with more being discovered each year. Breast milk contains antibodies to help protect babies from disease and has been shown to reduce a baby’s risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, lower respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).[2] Additionally, breast milk is easier for babies to digest and its nutrients are more readily absorbed by a baby’s body.

The baby isn’t the only one to benefit from breastfeeding, either. Breastfeeding mothers have reduced rates of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Nursing gives the mother relaxed time to bond with her baby and releases oxytocin, a calming hormone. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers also enjoy more sleep, contrary to the popular idea that formula-fed babies sleep better.[3] Breastfeeding requires no mixing of formula or sterilizing bottles and reduces the number of baby items you have to tote in your diaper bag. It saves money, too!

Misinformation

Despite these benefits, many mothers are not breastfeeding their babies. Some are unable to breastfeed for health reasons. Others are held back by cultural stigma or misinformation about how breastfeeding may change their bodies. And many stop nursing in the early weeks, overwhelmed by challenges they did not anticipate.

When I began my breastfeeding journey, I was quickly frustrated and overwhelmed. Since breastfeeding was the “natural” thing to do, I expected it to come naturally! I didn’t anticipate the learning curve. Women may face everything from clogged ducts and mastitis to supply issues and latch problems. These difficulties may be overcome with proper support. It is critical for women to educate themselves during pregnancy and develop a strong support system. Find a breastfeeding support group in your area. Make sure your hospital is lactation friendly. Read, read, and READ. Ask questions of friends who have breastfed. If you don’t have any, look for online communities like mothering.com. Make sure your pediatrician is supportive and informed.

And then, after those first few weeks, the challenges diminish. Mothers suddenly realize that breastfeeding is becoming second nature. They pop the baby on and baby's happy gulps make them smile. They latch the baby quickly at night and their sleep improves. Mothers realize they can nurse at the grocery store without having a minor panic attack. Knowing that they are giving their baby the best start they can, makes every difficult moment worth the effort!

Respond to this article   View Reader Comments
______________________________

By Danae Schilt. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

[1] CBS News: More Breastfeeding Could Save 900 Babies a Year
[2] WomensHealth.gov: Why Breastfeeding is Important
[3] USAToday: Study, Breastfeeding Won’t Rob Mom of Sleep

Health for All

Fri, 2015-07-31 14:00
Photo: iStock As someone who cannot afford health insurance, I'm left in the danger zone. I have medical conditions that require me to take multiple medications every day, yet I struggle to afford the cost for those medications. Without insurance, my cost every month for medication is over one thousand dollars! If I did not receive help from various clinics and organizations I would be without medication and would require even more costly assistance.

I recently read a story about a man who severed clean two of his fingers while operating a table saw. He was insured but was told that due to the high cost of the surgery that they would only cover one finger; he had to choose which finger to save. I can only imagine how hard it would be to have to make a decision like that, yet everyday hundreds of people are making similar decisions.

On this earth of sin and sickness, I'm constantly reminded that someday we will be in a place without pain, sorrow, sickness and sin. A place where God will make our bodies new and our hearts white as snow.

Hope

Everyday, efforts are being made to make medications and needed healthcare easier to attain, and that gives me hope for the future and a little less stress.

Numerous times in the Bible Jesus healed the sick and poor of heart, and instructed His disciples to do the same. This is at the very core of healing and presents humanity at its best.  Because Jesus so loved us, we should love also our fellow men and women.

I look forward to the day that God brings us into his kingdom and breathes new life into our bodies. “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (Proverbs 15:29-31).

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______________________________

By Benjamin DuBose. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Health for All

Fri, 2015-07-31 14:00
Photo: iStock As someone who cannot afford health insurance, I'm left in the danger zone. I have medical conditions that require me to take multiple medications every day, yet I struggle to afford the cost for those medications. Without insurance, my cost every month for medication is over one thousand dollars! If I did not receive help from various clinics and organizations I would be without medication and would require even more costly assistance.

I recently read a story about a man who severed clean two of his fingers while operating a table saw. He was insured but was told that due to the high cost of the surgery that they would only cover one finger; he had to choose which finger to save. I can only imagine how hard it would be to have to make a decision like that, yet everyday hundreds of people are making similar decisions.

On this earth of sin and sickness, I'm constantly reminded that someday we will be in a place without pain, sorrow, sickness and sin. A place where God will make our bodies new and our hearts white as snow.

Hope

Everyday, efforts are being made to make medications and needed healthcare easier to attain, and that gives me hope for the future and a little less stress.

Numerous times in the Bible Jesus healed the sick and poor of heart, and instructed His disciples to do the same. This is at the very core of healing and presents humanity at its best.  Because Jesus so loved us, we should love also our fellow men and women.

I look forward to the day that God brings us into his kingdom and breathes new life into our bodies. “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (Proverbs 15:29-31).

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______________________________

By Benjamin DuBose. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Spring Berries

Fri, 2015-07-31 14:00
Photo: Dreamstime Many people love the fresh berries that become available in spring. Depending on where you live, berry season may be at peak production in March and April or May and June. Two favorite berries many enjoy are strawberries and blueberries. Here are some interesting and healthy tidbits about these delicious spring berries.

The common garden strawberry is a bright red, juicy and sweet berry that is enjoyed fresh or in other dishes (preserves, pies, and sauces). The United States tops the world in the production of strawberries. Unfortunately, the plants are susceptible to disease and pests so pesticides are often used on them. Strawberries are ranked among the “dirty dozen” foods with pesticides. Because of this, berries should always be thoroughly washed. Or you can purchase pesticide-free berries, which are a little more difficult to come by. Many people enjoy growing their own. I enjoy them most on pancakes.

Strawberries are good for your health. One cup contains only 45 calories. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids. Strawberries also contain antioxidants (fisetin) which have been studied in helping people with Alzheimer’s and kidney failure resulting from diabetes. Like all berries, they are filled with phytochemicals that help prevent disease and keep us healthy.

Blueberries

Blueberries are native to North America and have been the dominant berry grown on the east coast. There is actually quite a large variety of this delicious berry (Duke, O’Neill, South Moon, Elliot, Croatan, etc.). If you are purchasing fresh berries, look for consistency in size and firmness. A mix of sizes probably means a mixture of over-ripe and under-ripe berries. Of course, the best way to determine good blueberries is to taste them! Blueberries are one of the easiest berries to freeze and easy to pull out and enjoy on a hot summer afternoon. Blueberries are also ranked among the dirty dozen foods with higher levels of pesticides, so they should also be carefully washed (or purchased organically).

Much research has gone into studying the anti-disease benefits of blueberries. Many nutrients (with hard to pronounce names) have been found to inhibit cancer cell development and inflammation. One phytochemical is called resveratrol. In 2007 a symposium on berry health benefits showed blueberries help to alleviate cognitive decline (in Alzheimer’s disease) as well as other aging conditions. Rutgers research has found blueberries help prevent urinary infections. Other studies show they can help maintain normal blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. One study even showed blueberries can help with symptoms of depression.

Strawberries and blueberries are two delicious fruits the Creator made for us to not only stay healthy, but to relish and enjoy. Whether you slice or toss them in a fruit salad or mix them with your breakfast cereal, there is nothing quite like biting into spring berries!

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

For more info: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/signs-of-spring-berries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_strawberry
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueberries
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/

Walk With Jesus

Fri, 2015-07-31 14:00
Photo: iStock Recently, after a long bout of illness, I began walking on my treadmill again to get myself back into some kind of decent fitness. I was having a hard time walking, so I began to think of all the miles that Jesus walked on this earth. He did not ride anywhere. He put one foot in front of the other and walked! I imagined that I was walking with Jesus through the desert or into a city.

If I walked with Jesus, then my little treadmill-walking would seem like a piece of cake. Who am I to give up on my simple little walk!

Then my thoughts went to stories I’d been reading and hearing about in the news—of the people of Somalia walking for days and days trying to find rest from the ravages of war and famine; searching for food, water, and a place where they can find help. Most of these people are walking barefoot. They are frightened and starving. Their children and old ones are dying. These are humans who are no different than you and me! They are walking because it is a matter of life or death for them. There is no choice if they hope to survive and to help their children to live.

Survival

So what do these two lines of thought—walking with Jesus and walking for survival—have to do with each other? The common denominator is walking. Our survival depends on Jesus as does walking for our physical health.

As a present-day disciple, I challenge myself to get up and put one foot in front of the other, without complaining, without compromise, and without thought for comfort. My only thought is to follow Jesus wherever He leads me. I’m not just talking about the treadmill, though that exercise has become more pleasant as I make it a “Walk with Jesus.” I’m talking about every aspect and responsibility of life.

To you, I say: “JUST WALK…and Jesus will lead you along your path. He will walk with you physically and spiritually."

"But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).

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By Cathy Anne Tackett. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Habitude

Mon, 2014-12-29 16:00
Photo: Jason Stitt Habitude, what is it? Most of the time when we speak of habits, we use the term negatively such as; “It’s his/her habit to always be late.” Yet, first is attitude. Habit plus attitude equals habitude.

We develop our habitude as children. Good habitude is simply another way of teaming the power of positive thinking with the power of what one person can do. Of course, children may not realize the power element but adults do. Thus, if bad habits are developed, a change is necessary. We need to start over like a little child and relearn.

Our habitude makes for a worthwhile existence or it can ruin us. In order to accentuate good habitude, one needs a goal: where does it lead? Bad habitude is goalless. Discipline takes work, but when one acquires good habitude: happiness happens. It’s like a formula for ever-fresh youthful thinking. It’s also a commitment. David wrote in Psalm 37:5, “ Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him: he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Think about it, bad habits are careless attitudes. Carelessness is the opposite of caring. In fact, it is another facet of selfishness. Fortunately, being human, we have choices. In the case of habitude, it is to be caring or to care less. It is not something that we inherit or over which we have no control.

Form of Abuse

As we check the facts about habits and attitudes, we cannot escape this truth: in reality, negative habits and attitudes are a form of abuse. Therefore, we affect all in our sphere because of our habitude. Even our environment suffers if we take an indifferent attitude to our surroundings. Take, for instance, the attitude of a person who sees nothing wrong with trashing roadsides and campgrounds. Such attitude becomes a negative habit. Just as the person, who refuses to throw trash on the highway and cleans up after a picnic or camping experience, shows a positive habitude.

Stephen R. Covey, American author, known as a leadership guru, rated by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the world, states that our habits are our greatest helper or heaviest burden. He is correct, of course. Certainly, our habits will not get their first foothold if we do not first hold the attitude that leads to helper or burden-maker.

Have you noticed that aging, cranky people seem so much older than those who are cheerful? If you want to look younger to others, share a positive habitude. Eloise Bullock, of San Marcos, Calif., will soon be 102 years old. She still plays piano, writes beautiful encouraging letters, and she’s ever cheerful. Who can believe her age?

Good habitude is our individual choice. By partnering with God, we discover that our power is allowing Him to infuse us with a heavenly habitude because it is He who supplies the power. Indeed, a veritable fountain of youth.

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By Betty Kossick. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Conduits of Health

Fri, 2014-12-26 16:00
Photo: Dreamstime “Dad,” my son complained, “this electric cord is shot!” I tested it and found broken wires near the plugs. So I found another cord for him to use. My son and nephew were building a tree fort and needed electricity to power a couple of tools. When I went out to inspect their work I noticed they were using 150 feet of electric cord that was hooked up to several power hungry tools that barely ran. I explained to them that the smaller the gauge of wire and the longer the cord the less juice you will get! So, we went to the garage and found better electric cords.

Electric cords are a bit like the blood vessels in our bodies. If our blood does not travel easily to all the organs and tissues of our bodies, it will diminish our health and power. One of the overlooked blood vessels in the body is called capillaries. These micro-vessels carry nutrients to all the tissues in your body. The linings of these tiny vessels are only one cell thick. When blood leaves the heart it travels first through arteries, then arterioles, and then capillaries.

Capillaries

Capillary density refers to how many capillaries are available in specific places in your body. You might assume you are born with a limited number of these micro-vessels, but you can actually increase their numbers with exercise. Scientific studies have been conducted that demonstrate how exercise training helps you develop new capillaries. One of the primary benefits of more capillaries is greater oxygen transport to your muscles which improves their function.

Every cell in your body needs food to survive. Just as good electric circulation provides enough power to run tools, good blood circulation in our bodies gives all the organs and tissues the energy they need to function at peak levels. It’s also important for carrying away waste products. Imagine sanitation engineers going on strike and piles of garbage heaped around your house. When your circulation is poor, the waste products choke away the life of cells because they build up and are not carried away. This decreases your ability to fight disease.

When we think of exercise, we might first picture losing weight or toning muscles. But there are tiny little vessels that perform a big job of helping keep your whole body in good working order. Don’t forget about capillaries. Take time to exercise each day and keep these little channels of life flowing well. You will not only have more endurance, but you will also be healthier from head to toe.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Blue Christmas

Mon, 2014-12-22 16:23
Photo: Dreamstime Are you having trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year? Just don’t feel up to all the festivities? Maybe it’s been a tough year, one of loss or loneliness. And perhaps all the cheery glitter and glitz of the season is making you feel even worse.

If you’re melancholy when the world around you seems to be joyously celebrating, don’t feel guilty. It’s safe to assume that plenty of other people are feeling blue, too. Many of them are just trying to hide it. But we all know that it doesn’t work to paste on a huge smile and try to make yourself all peppy. Being a fake never helps.

Instead, look for one small thing each day to focus your thoughts on and appreciate. Maybe it will be a bit of sunshine in your window. Or a child’s smile (they’re usually genuine). Or a velvet ribbon on a holiday decoration.

Silence a Precious Treasure

Maybe it will be a pleasant aroma. Or a tinkling bell. Or silence. Remember what a priceless treasure silence can be. You can always create sound with the push of a button. But you can’t always have quietness.

Like a rainbow, happiness comes in different colors. Sometimes it is red with excitement, or yellow with bliss. But sometimes happiness needs a rest—a bit of blue tranquility.

Some churches are recognizing the need for a time of calmness during the frantic holiday rush by holding “Blue Christmas” church services featuring low lights and subdued meditations and music. The resulting sense of peacefulness is really joy taking a rest.

Whatever activities you choose to participate in—or skip—this holiday season, remember that God accepts you, however you’re feeling. And God cares about your life, whatever “color” it may be.

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_____________________________

By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Imagine That

Fri, 2014-12-19 16:00
Photo: Dreamstime As a kid growing up with a mind full of mystery and adventure, I was always drawn to the idea of lost cities, secret meadows, and strange animals. Like most kids, I would go out in my backyard and create grand worlds of fantasy and intrigue, dressing up like a pirate or pretending to be a flying dinosaur, hiding in the bushes from marauders from afar, climbing up trees as if they were tall ships racing across the sea.

Our imaginations are amazing tools. They help invent new ideas and products, solve problems, fix broken things, and dream up worlds of new and exciting adventures. They also give us the ability to imagine more ways to help one another. As we grow and learn we begin to mold our imaginations into ideas and things that could be beneficial for the world and our fellow man and woman. We imagine better schools, more efficient hospitals, ways to stop poverty, and ideas that bring the world closer together.

The imagination can also be a tool used to do evil deeds. The devil is ever aware of this and tries everyday to tempt our minds into taking a different path. But we must continue down the path that God is leading us.

Special Tool

I'm glad I had my imaginary worlds growing up as a kid, and to tell you the truth they are still there just as strong as ever. It's easy to let the world dictate how we will act and what we will say. We just set our lives on auto pilot and try to enjoy the ride. But God has asked more from us than that. He gave us this very special tool, not to be locked up in some rusty dust-filled toolbox in our mind, but to be used as a way to imagine creative and new ways that we can help one another and ultimately show the love of God to others.

The next time you feel stressed out to the max, take a five to 10 minute break and just let your imagination run wild! You never know what amazing thing you might discover.

The Bible says, "“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9). We can try to imagine, but this verse tells us that God has something even better than we can imagine. Imagine that!

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______________________________

By Benjamin DuBose Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION 1982.

Holiday Safety

Mon, 2014-12-15 16:00
Photo: Studiomill Up on the Rooftop
Hanging outdoor holiday lights can be a dangerous undertaking, so remember the one-to-four rule: the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder rises.

Food and Festivities
While holiday partygoers mingle with each other, bacteria may be mingling with the party food. To keep food safe, remember the two-hour rule: food should not sit unprotected at room temperature for more than about two hours.

Southwestern Medical Center News

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______________________________

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life, November/December 2009. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

A Balanced View

Fri, 2014-12-12 16:00
Photo: Kathy Lewis According to numerous local sources, Cathedral Rock is the most photographed and famous scene in Sedona, Ariz. If you’ve been privileged to travel to Red Rock Country, you know that wherever you might cast your gaze, breathtaking crimson rock formations of various shapes and sizes rise up to meet you. 

There’s Coffeepot Rock, Courthouse Butte, Snoopy, Mitten Ridge and Chimney Rock, just to name a few. But standing nearly 5,000 feet tall, with a number of towering side rocks, the grandeur of Cathedral Rock is a favorite among photographers and hikers alike. Even though the trek to the top is barely more than a half mile, the short climb to the vermilion spires is steep and strenuous in places. Somehow, it is reminiscent of tramping uphill to view ancient Greek ruins.

When you finally reach the saddle points, magnificent views await you on every side. Sitting on top of the world, so to speak, one is content to just be.

On a recent trip to Sedona, I scrambled up the bare sandstone slopes of Cathedral Rock around 7 a.m. to marvel at the striking shadows the early morning sun cast upon the ruddy cliffs and rolling hills below. Another couple and myself snapped photos of each other while sharing the panoramic view.

Suddenly, a single male in his mid thirties bounded up the top step and without a word or  glance in our direction, nor even a peak at the breathtaking vista before him, made an abrupt about face and headed back down the trail.

Self Absorbed in Fitness Routine

“Hey wait!” I called after him. “You’ve got to be kidding!” But he wasn’t. The three of us just looked at each other in utter amazement as we realized that hiker might just as well have been doing his morning workout in a fitness center in the inner city. The peace, serenity and shear beauty of his surroundings, was completely lost to the man so self absorbed in his fitness routine that he saw nothing else.

Much has been written on the benefits of outdoor exercise for our physical and mental well being. But less has been said about balance. The word itself brings to mind well rounded harmony and points to mental and emotional stability. Without it, the pendulum always swings too far to the left, or right.

Even exercise, without balance, leans toward obsession and addictive behavior. However, with it, the same activity becomes the total rejuvenating experience it was meant to be.

As you walk, jog or hike, observe the beautiful cloud formations; stop to pet a furry kitty; follow a butterfly flitting from blossom to blossom; listen to the wild call of distant coyotes; smell the Ponderosa pine; notice the flowers in bloom; see a zebra striped lizard sunning on a rock; spot a brown cotton tail darting into the bushes, and thank the Creator for all He has given you to enjoy.

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By Kathy A. Lewis. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Blessings in Disguise

Mon, 2014-12-08 16:00
Photo: Studiomill Blessings come in many varieties. Some blessings are easy to spot. Like a sunny, calm spring day with perky birds warbling nothing but good news. Or a quiet evening spent in the company of loved ones just talking about nothing in particular, but enjoying it as much as if it were something spectacular. These blessings are the predictable kind. The ones that you can always count on to perform their special wonder.

Then there are the blessings that are not immediately identified as such. In fact, they may be seen as anything but blessings! I mean, blessings are supposed to make you feel good, right? Blessings are supposed to always arrive gently into our laps with a velvet ribbon attached. Right? Not always. Some blessings, which at first may appear quite clearly as curses, often drop into our laps like lead balloons.

For example, recently my mom was visiting for a few days. Having to work during the day for part of her visit, I naturally wanted to make the most of all the time we had together in the evenings. Well, one of the evenings, I had to bake a couple of pumpkin pies that I had agreed to donate for an upcoming church event. I was not strongly motivated to spend the evening doing this to begin with, but when I discovered that I was out of eggs, I became downright resentful about it. “Now I have to go back to town at this hour and get eggs for these stupid pies!” I whined.

I got in the car and hurried to the store so that I could come back, get the pies baked, throw them on a cooling rack, and resume my time with Mom. But you know what happened? On my way home, I realized how unnecessary it was to get worked up over a couple of pies. So, when I got home, I asked Mom to pull up a chair in the kitchen and keep me company, which she was happy to do.

Peaceful Symphony

As it turned out, the late hour of the evening provided a most peaceful symphony from the frogs in our nearby pond as I had the kitchen windows open. The warm breeze flowed through, and Mom and I chatted happily. It was actually one of my most precious memories of Mom's visit, and I would have missed it if it hadn't been for those pies! That was definitely a blessing in disguise.

Then there was the evening recently when I planted my strawberries. I had worked all day and was very tired, but my strawberry plants had arrived and needed to be planted. I could have waited until the next day, which I was really leaning toward. But then I decided to push on and just go out and get them planted even though I was really dragging.

As I began digging in the fresh soil, my weariness seemed to subside. The more plants I placed in the ground, the livelier I felt until finally I found myself placing the final plant in its place. Through the process, I had eavesdropped on the most glorious conversations among the birds in the nearby trees. The evening air was the perfect temperature, and there were no mosquitoes in sight. Perfect! Once again, as I picked up my tools, I realized that had I waited until the next day, I would have missed that wonderful experience that I had earlier expected to be a drudgery. Another blessing in disguise.

Every day holds one experience after another. Some of those experiences will be easily identified as blessings. But in those times when when the schedule gets changed or when you're inconvenienced and you are sure your day is ruined, don't judge too quickly. There might be a blessing right around the corner that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

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By Gwen Scott Simmons. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Soy Yogurt

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:00
Photo: Monika Adamczyk Soy yogurts enriched with blueberries contain natural compounds that may dampen the activity of enzymes that play a role in high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. These enzymes-angiotensin-l converting enzyme (ACE-l), alpha/amylase, and alpha-glucosides (carbohydrate-altering enzymes)—are also the targets of medications used to treat diabetes and hypertension.

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst took samples from four different brands of peach, strawberry, blueberry, and plain yogurt (including soy yogurt) and tested their ability to inhibit these enzymes, using water or a buffer solution as a control.

Soy yogurt enriched with blueberries packed the most punch, inhibiting the activity of all three enzymes. Peach and strawberry yogurts helped inhibit the two carbohydrate-altering enzymes.

Food & Fitness Advisor

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Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

A Healthy Holiday!

Mon, 2014-12-01 16:00
Photo: Jason Stitt It may seem like the month of December is out to get you. There are no fewer than nine “food” holidays in December – ranging from National Brownie Day (Dec. 8) to National Eggnog Day (Dec. 24). Everywhere you turn in December you see food, food, food. And much of it is far from healthy! 

Unfortunately, all the “goodies” of the holiday season can pile up on you—literally. Statistics show that most people gain at least one pound during the month of December. That may not seem like much. But if you don’t lose that pound and add another one to it each December, we’re looking at a serious accumulation of weight over the years.

A recent holiday catalog I received advertised a six-week plan for helping people “stay on track” during the holidays. It included recipes, a journal and even a small group study guide. Most people won’t get that involved. They just want a few simple tips: 

1. It all starts in your mind. Learn to think of the holidays as an opportunity to take better care of yourself, not as a license to indulge. Focus on people, not food. When you attend holiday events look for the healthiest options. Fresh, high-fiber foods will fill you up without loading on the calories. Holding a glass in your hand and sipping slowly while mingling with people can help you enjoy the event without eating a bunch of things you don’t need, or maybe even want. Making wise decisions ahead of time about what you will eat and drink (and how late you will stay) at parties always pays off. 

2. It takes so little to be above average. Anyone can give their appetites free rein. But one careful look around a typical American grocery store should convince you that you really don’t want to be average. People in “civilized” societies are literally eating themselves to death. They are buying the lies that say: “You deserve this. You’ve worked hard and this will make you feel good. It’s the holidays—loosen up! You can always diet in January.” 

3. Here’s the truth: Eating healthy helps you feel good. So does getting enough sleep and exercise. If you really want to “reward” yourself, eat something special that’s GOOD for you—not something that is going to raise your blood pressure, clog your arteries and rot your teeth (not to mention giving you indigestion and heartburn). And remember that it’s harder to lose the weight later than to just stick with your healthy habits now. Go for a jog or a walk. Then spend a few minutes relaxing before bedtime. 

Yes, it is the holiday season. Celebrate it by being truly good to yourself and those you love.

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Hope and Health

Fri, 2014-11-28 16:00
Photo: Bill Davenport Victor Frankl, the famous Vienna psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, recalls the following story taking place in his concentration camp. One day a fellow prisoner confided to him that a voice in a strange dream had promised to answer whatever question he wanted to ask. So he asked the voice to tell him when the camp would be liberated. The dream voice replied, March 30. The man awakened from his dream absolutely thrilled and excited—March 30 was only a few weeks away.

Under the torturous conditions in the camp, the man took the dream seriously, believing with all his heart that March 30 would bring salvation. But as the day approached and the news reaching the prisoners remained discouraging, the man took sick.

On March 31, after the deadline and no liberation, the man died. The physical cause of his death was listed as typhus. But Dr. Frankl believes it was the sudden loss of hope, the severe disappointment, which lowered the man's resistance to the infection. This experience, along with many others like it, convinced Dr. Frankl that if you have nothing more to expect from life, you begin to lose life.

Vital to Human Existence 

Hope is a vital part of human existence—the confident belief that there is something more rather than something less, something better instead of something worse, something to live for and invest energy in gives life its necessary depth and meaning and security. Hope empowers us to push through incredible obstacles and challenges, to defy the odds and keep going.

The Bible uses the word "hope" about 150 times. And in the majority of those times the object of hope is God. The writers discovered that when all else failed, they were able to place their hope on God and keep moving forward. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

So what is the object of your hope? What is your hope based upon? Is your hope in something you can trust, something you can really believe in, Someone you can count on through thick and thin?

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).

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By Greg Nelson. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the New Living Translation © 1996 and the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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