Look Who’s Home for Dinner!

10994972_10100470560107658_6472890611977388160_n-1Well, who do you suppose has come home in time for dinner? Sam 2Samuel came through his surgery with flying colors, Sam 3so somebody lent him a cap and gownSam4& the doctor approved his discharge without any oxygen, tubes, or extra “stuff!” Samuel in his basketSo, Daniel and Brianna just whisked him away to their home, sweet, home, Samuel in his cap and gownand little Samuel is a bonafide NICU graduate and glad to be home body!
I was so excited that I couldn’t wait until next Saturday to share the good news!
Thank you once again for your prayers, love, and concern during this journey!!!

“But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.”   (Psalm 59:16)

(P.S.—Starting next Saturday, Lord willing, I may start sharing from a book I wrote called Bless Your Baby, which will give weekly ideas for how to be a blessing to babies during their first year of life.)

Samuel at 41 Weeks

Look Mom, no tubes!Good things have been happening in Samuel’s tiny world. Here’s what Brianna shared last Tuesday: “Word on the street is that Samuel’s eyes are ‘mature.’ He will have an outpatient follow-up exam in two weeks to verify. Considering how extensive his disease had become, this is remarkable news! Thanks for the many prayers on behalf of the little man. Thank you Lord for answering with a ‘yes’.” Sleeping Preemie        Because Samuel’s eye exam went so well, he had surgery on WednesdaySmiling preemie                                                 to repair his inguinal hernias.Three generations of Armstrong     Here are a few “family photos” from the last time we saw him before surgery.Happy Family (but not Chinese dish)        Brianna and Dan have been real troopers throughout this whole ordeal!Mom and Baby resting       This is Brianna comforting Sammy before he was prepared for surgery.Baby with a pacifier                                He’s gotten quite attached to his pacifier!Just before surgery  Ready to roll? His surgery went very well, and recovery has been so rapid Resting with Mom after surgery   that there’s talk of his being able to go home this weekend! It may be that we’re close to the end of Baby Samuel’s scary hospital journey! Wouldn’t that be nice!Preemie in isoletteSo, Samuel and  his traveling buddy, D.J., are both safely home, but we’ve connected with yet another preemie family. Tiny Elin Faith was born just a couple of weeks ago at 24 weeks and 15 oz. So far, she’s hanging tough. Family of preemie Here are her mom and 3 older sisters, who (along with their daddy) are also trying to hang tough. If you have any interest in following Elin’s progress or praying for her, her family is posting on Facebook under “Elin Faith Updates,” and they welcome you to follow there.

“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3)

Totally Not PC Quotable Quotes

Amelie Sarah LouiseOne of the most unexpected blessings of my kids growing up is enjoying friendships with their mother-in-laws…precious women I would probably never have met otherwise. For instance, Gerlinde’s mom, Sarah, had never been to America—nor had I ever been to Germany—until our kids married, and yet  we’ve become good friends and even share a name sake, little Amélie Sarah Louise (who just turned 3 last week). What a deal! At any rate, Sarah is also a blogger, and she had a series of funny quotes last week that I just loved, so she’s letting me pass them along to you. Hope you enjoy them! A1-SqEn2m9xo8VDJslpE5tJpKCFZO7VPBfjzRcU1rqtHOnb5fyGyQZbC_kY5-KMTHjcLviGsX4_H-7AgX60dasDneqDEczwwrXqJV3WOSx_RSSDsosd1xNnd7Ewmx2RE=s0-d-e1-ftcw8maM9gVeHPFlTXnvOSLQNurk0KJ8aHiVuDUtE0I9H8yk0fGlLfTkoV-DCrqPrFwJ4eDcGgk2tt-21QMc_RY9qlKwIDLM1sv7pEPrRe7OS0kokF-_5bpKKuxkaHakBgX4GjDw=s0-d-e1-ftcalvin-cooloige2-934xh8rs2UwZyw72vjsYqBnBKl-D0ejw2Oj4NnC4IXLbwmaF7lIowAl1WKK1ytbQsLtU6eOvj1XlVhZjkqOp4P-abkiabKOdXkDNu59xdsL6vQitzU-c8VqIncpNEIWXfgKNfA=s0-d-e1-ftwRcQGXcPaEJWZWaYxrtD-ieDfO1KxFh1YcpEzZfiEeBnAzZQxBBi3zNSwNlSxCKAONakDo2IH8kZJUjrdsLoyTEY1JmbsVvz65otoU1HuAKTDUP-DsIo217PJkc8oDc57g=s0-d-e1-ft5ZcaPf9ZeSDnGQp1DabQODwmCTK7QDmuM4z9koCrNn0tuTB8OvLy3DQQXZdTVqD3im_7XoN5uU_RktLeUiJAK4aqdjtyVhga0BhCIeJbeENv-naX8h8I-1ID7jeKely_gscrJwo=s0-d-e1-ft7SpF_S-0CH7wbPuw9HlRzkOd91jEtjxhAhe7eNNnOVgFP90_bXDzLCp0A2ttUJzDc--jPLBL8raLdPkxCAKF4seVvgWv7_mGsbuPTDTGumtLZzuPW7226M8PddjjO8A6PE8=s0-d-e1-ftWVRIknUY8gxXmo7v1Y-d38WSLDlpgLhIZslAvbvmkfATTCBU7HkvbkqNAp-Y6DDgHJCiJDJHTt-crTGAvQIQyMkNaj6lpFoF2xv_2RololoDS6Yhma43GCsnLu86VlpGHz2VUSYv6vzmYQ=s0-d-e1-ftNhqjHEINjgBoYZp1JFe-x-rc_SyaZyVw6OwiJn84d1sqtrwDq_8KYeNTeUi77uY_XJwiMfaTW-dsoDVe7cUzTejECvPMWd4CiYL29_SOJHe1AOFFiDGcicjSPwddefoTGxQLRXCC5mlWLbA0Je8krVrV5zG-Lpw4S31QDOjPT8AV7LAvPJ8l1A9a32DA=s0-d-e1-ftACHPRuR-S_6bIEfNPC57MvJZiV0IU2GMyLcfXAs5e-7ywcNKwGXMjdK_2o41utfnRHBl1DxtxpFWkNuhxm-r2BaxXt3MPDUxh_t1CVprAMY6Fity6rH8DXXUM0SsxXhFZhj58Cc=s0-d-e1-ftTkVR0XWk5Mm_Ln_Y237E20T8AFLc5kJzfiJZn1mnb1vo4As_4Yo6CdyUMw2JseEUzxjfZVVVYNUMSiN-oPEbn_Z1ODHrGSyM66oxz65eSnzD-I2XDzu5JlbThf1q4a_yeC3fqg67ixF5dK8=s0-d-e1-ftUzevw67syygEj8kzhcysVuOH3TfSvfY6RvMhJxsZEBtb_W6QtpHC5jdsORuhUDKIzyce8Ga0fZUZ1TFPE3OCS-_InmttRHCHKMXAuMLKFxi2ls7yQPF5ITOIow0f7BqZerNBKsoU=s0-d-e1-ft

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”
(Proverbs 26:4-5)

One Workout Won’t Wipe Out One Pig Out!

Not everyone who’s part of our Wednesday weight-loss journey comments on this blog. Some just let me know personally, and some respond via email or Facebook messages. Whether or not you’ve been keeping company with us since January 1, 2015, or happen to notice our support group for the first time today, Welcome! I hope you find these posts on our “Weight Loss Journey” encouraging, and if you have any extra pounds that are weighing you down…may you be inspired to work hard at losing them! If you’re already at your ideal body weight…well, the principles probably work for losing emotional or spiritual weights as well. Bakery Cakes copyOne non-blog response I just loved this week came from “Lisa” (used by her permission): “I am down .5 lbs, but I am tempted to ride up and down with the scale and daily fluctuations can be discouraging.  This weekend I was up 2, and I can testify that one workout does not wipe out a pig out.  🙂    I am praying for you and all of us trying honor God with our bodies, that He will strengthen, encourage, and sustain us.”

Amen, Sister! I think Lisa touched on two key issues that make our attempts at weight loss so frustrating. For one, weight fluctuates, notoriously in women throughout adulthood, but increasingly also for men as they age. There’s nothing women can do about the monthly ups and downs except (as Lisa pointed out) refuse to ride up and down emotionally in response. But, both men and women need to be cognizant of how salt causes water retention and temporarily elevates weight. I try to compensate by eating fish at home on Tuesdays (before my weekly weigh-in on Wednesday morning) rather than beef out (or any especially salty dish). Eating out is deadly for me, because even if I don’t overeat, restaurants make their food sooooo appealing by using hypersaltation.
(Ya, I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean.) Buffet Lunch copy And her other point is well taken, too. One pigout could be as much as 1,000+?? calories beyond our normal daily needs. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble burning 350 calories during a 1-hour workout, and life has to be quiet to find that hour. Outdoor exercise like walking is more pleasant, but not when the temperatures are dipping into icy negatives, and walking burns even fewer calories. Calisthenics and stretching are super good for us—but they garner fewer calories still.This is the "Brown Cow," but who's counting? copySo, what’s the answer? For a starter, I’m really trying to avoid pigging out in the first place! If it’s a special occasion, maybe a bite instead of a serving. I’m trying to remind myself, “A taste is as good as a feast” and savor my taste carefully.  Jane commented a couple of weeks ago: “I want less of me, not more of that!… I tell people all the time. I can have anything I want. I just can’t want much. That works for me.” When it comes to disciplining ourselves to become more of what we know we ought to be, let’s figure out what works and then do it…be it pounds or any other weighty weakness.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).


Maui’s Magnificent South (west) Beaches

Sunrise Walk on Big Beach, MauiLooking for some dream-come-true tropical beaches to walk where there are wide stretches of golden sandWailea Beach  lined with palm trees and crowned with rainbows?Kahoolawe from Big Beach, South Maui… where crystal-clear waves caress the shoreline with gently swirling kisses… distant islands beckon…Humpback Whale cavorting. Maui and humpback whales cavort in the bays?  Waves rolling in on Big Beach If you can make it to Maui, then you’ll look no more, because—as Andy Doughty says— Maui has “an embarrassment of riches” when it comes to fabulous beaches. Longboats along Wailea Beach For whatever reason, Maui residents talk about the “South Maui Beaches” when they’re referring to the treasure trove of gorgeous beaches that run from Maalaea Bay to La Perouse down Maui’s southwestern (leeward) side. Misty Maui MountainsWe only had one day to explore, so we began our journey before sunrise and Highway 31, Mauiheaded to our southern-most point (to minimize traffic and maximize pleasure). Puu Makua in distanceThe road deteriorates before you can actually get to La Perouse, but the scenery is outstanding. This is where Maui’s last fresh lava flows reached the sea (1790), Last lava flows on Maui 1790and fields of lava rock and boulders line both sides of the road. Kanahena, Ahihi BayThe coastal side of the road is an unending feast for the eyes… jagged beauty Maui. Yellow wildflowers and profuse wildflowers blooming wherever there’s enough soil to take root. South Maui BeachesThere are no fewer than 17 major, named beaches on the map, but I’m really only going to tell you about our two favorites. Big Beach, Maui“Big Beach” (aka Makena or Oneloa) is a 100-foot wide, 2/3 mile long crescent  that is considered by many to be “the beach” in Maui. I concur with that opinion! Big Beach, MauiIt’s a state park with facilities and is said to be crowded, but early in the morning Walking Big Beach, Hawaiiwe had the entire waterfront to ourselves! Big beach is one of the premier spots Coconuts on Big Beachfor swimming, snorkeling, beach combing, or just basking in the sun. Wailea Bay The other incredibly beautiful beach is Wailea, and there’s a boardwalk that Resort at Waileafollows the coast for 2 miles, linking 5 beaches & a string of world-class resorts.Wailea PointWe were able to park for free at Polo Beach and found the walk to and fro Boardwalk at Waileautterly delightful! This is the most expensive area in Maui, and rumor has it thatCabanas in Wailea  to rent a cabana for a day can cost $450. That’s right. $450.00! So…we didn’t. Purple Palace of PrayerHowever, by then we were pretty much starving, so we stopped for a late lunch Kihei, Mauiin Kihei, where were served the most humungous Mahi Mahi Steakmahi mahi steaks we’ve ever seen. Paia Fish Market SouthPrices are high, and we had to wait in a very long line, but it was worth the wait!Maui RainbowThe day was full of both sunshine and showers…with lots of rainbows Ice Plantand flowers. “Just another perfect day in paradise,” I think he said. Sunset over MauiIf there are places on earth this beautiful, what will heaven be like?
I can hardly wait!

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

In Cold and Heat, Take Care of your Flowers!

Frozen FlowersI often use our “tea room” (3-season enclosed balcony) as a refrigerator during the winter months, because it gets very cold but doesn’t freeze (or so I thought). In particular, to extend the life of any flowers I received for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary (if I’d been good  🙂 ), I used to tuck the vase into bed each night on the tearoom table and then bring the flowers out the next morning—all bright and cheery again—to adorn our dining room table. Alas, with temperatures diving below zero and the wind chill making it insufferably colder, I woke up one morning to a shattered vase (my favorite) and completely iced flowers. I have since learned to pay closer attention to the weather forecast and have avoided any similar disasters this winter…although my favorite vase has been lost forever. 😦 Garden Room 2012 Winter copyOn the opposite side of our house (the sunny side) is our “garden room,” which is actually a year-round part of our home, and I use it to give the family (especially Alan, who always longs for sunshine) a sense of summer even in the winter. IMG_9883Unfortunately, our garden room can become extremely warm in the summer, and it requires constant attention to keep the plants healthy and blooming. IMG_9880 One hot July while I was gone for a couple of weeks tending a new grand baby, Alan forgot to water the plants in our garden room, and by the time I returned,IMG_9885            the garden room was in ruins. Most of the plants were severely damaged, IMG_9886 & some of the younger, more tender ones were totally dead & couldn’t be revived. Garden Room 10.28.11 copyI was totally devastated! I remembered the dreams we’d had when it was first built, and how hard I’d worked to make the room look just beautiful for Alan. IMG_9884And, I was terribly frustrated that he couldn’t remember to tend the flowers for just 2 weeks. Well, like my failure with the frozen flowers, some plants were never replaced, and it took a long time before our garden room became all beautiful again, but it is! Garden Room 2015 Winter copy This is how it looks this morning…all bright a cheery, despite the snow outside! Alan and Kathi 42nd Anniversary copyAlan and I just celebrated our 42nd anniversary, and in some ways we’re happier than ever, but it’s been a long, hard journey! As I was working in the garden room this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how marriages are like flowers. We can freeze them to death or burn them out just by failing to pay attention and provide the care they need. At some points, both partners will fail, and there will be irreparable loss, but it doesn’t have to be the end. As long as there’s life, there’s hope. May we keep our eyes and hearts open, learn to forgive, and keep working hard at making our marriages all they can be “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…(in cold and heat 🙂 ) …until death do us part!

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Rise Up, My Love (126): Of Goodness, Faith and Meekness

Woodland Garden, Lanhydrock, UKSong of Solomon 4:14 What about cinnamon, and the next fruit of the spirit, which is “goodness?” Well, each spice could become a day’s study in itself! Cinnamon has a “glorious” scent that is deliciously attractive. There is a common phrase in our country about “home-baked goodness,” and what single spice is most associated with baked “goods?” Cinnamon. Have you ever met a stomach that didn’t love cinnamon baked in sweetbreads, pies, and cookies? Cinnamon is used to scent candles and potpourris, to spice cider, and to allure visitors into the kitchen on cold winter nights! What spice do you most associate with Thanksgiving and Christmas? Apple Pie  copySimilarly, goodness is sprinkled throughout Scripture, adding flavor to all God’s creation: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Ps. 33:5); “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Ps. 107:8-9). Goodness is the embodiment of all which is both right and kind…the kiss of mercy and truth together…that which fills and satisfies the soul…that which brings us to repentance and to God himself: “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Cinnamon is the perfect picture of goodness, because just as the wonderful aroma and spicy taste of cinnamon make food so attractive, so the quality of goodness draws men to God and satisfies our hungry souls!

Frankincense—a unique perfume, but it was used as a standard ingredient in temple incense and offerings (Ex. 30:34); it symbolized worship and praise. How like faith! “Without faith, it is impossible to please him (God)” (Heb. 11:6). No offering is as precious to God as faith, and no sacrifice brought to God without faith is accepted. Although it is an exquisite delight to God, it is also his absolute standard for access, his absolute requirement for acceptance. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31-31). What is the foundation of the gospel? “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts. 20:21). The frankincense of faith is the one offering God accepts from kings and commoners alike. Indeed, he has given this consolation to the poor: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith” (James 2:5)? All of us can be rich in faith and produce the royal frankincense of faith in our lives for the praise and pleasure of our Lord.

And what of myrrh? Myrrh speaks of sorrow, suffering, obedience unto death… the crucified life. Which of the fruits of the Spirit correspond to myrrh? Meekness. However, Scriptural meekness is not to be confused with “weakness.” The term meekness was originally derived from an expression relating to the obedience of powerful, well-trained race horses that were acutely attentive to their masters and aware of their desires. Some horses can be guided simply by recognizing slight pressure changes in their masters’ knees. This is meekness: great sensitivity and obedience to authority. But, it is not just surrender to a powerful authority, it is a powerful surrender…great power under authority. AlligatorsOnce on a trip to the Everglades, I saw the awesome jaws of an alligator snap shut and heard the frightening bellow of a bull alligator. Did you know that alligators’ jaws can exert 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch? And yet, when the baby alligators hatch, they swim freely in and out of their parents’ mouths. This is the perfect illustration of meekness. Not that the alligator could not crush its young, but that it does not crush its young.

“He could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world, and set him free! He could have called ten thousand angels, but he died alone, for you and me” (Ray Overholt). Christ lived a life of perfect meekness: “meekness and majesty, manhood and deity—in perfect harmony” (Graham Kendrick)…the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. And, this is the life God calls us to live, a life as intensely fragrant as drops of myrrh distilling from wounds in the tree of our life. A life tuned to the Master’s every touch and obedient unto death. A life as surrendered as myrrh melting in the heat… like gold tried by fire, made molten and poured out to become a vessel fit for the Master’s use.



Sammy at 40 Weeks: Looking Back and Ahead

Alan and KathiAlan and I just celebrated our 42nd anniversary, 38 weeks and it was especially happy and special for us Mother and Baby because our anniversary was the due date for little Samuel, November 24, 2014 Emergency C-section although—as you probably know—he was born 13 weeks early, back in November after Brianna had an emergency C-section due to a dangerous pre-eclampsia. Thanksgiving Day, 2014 Here Samuel is on Thanksgiving Day, and I was thinking about just how much has happened in the past 13 weeks, and how much he’s changed. November 30, 2014Here he is on November 30, after Brianna had recovered enough to love him up. December 16, 2014 Off VentilatorBy December 1, he was allowed to go from a ventilator to a C-PAP, December 8, 2014 Pneumoniaalthough the next week he developed pneumonia. December 19, 2014Poor Baby Samuel was hooked up and wired every which way! 😦 December 25, 2014By Christmas Day he was beginning to recover, but life was still really tough. January 1, 2015By New Year’s Day, we were all beginning to feel very hopeful that he’d survive. January 4, 2015However, then Sammy started developing eye problems, January 10, 2015and eventually it was decided that he needed to be transferred from his NICU  NICU Children'sto a more specialized children’s hospital in case he needed eye surgery. January 18, 2015Thankfully, his eyes have been improving (although they’re still at risk), January 23, 2015but now he has inguinal hernias that will need to be surgically repaired before he can go home. Preemie at term If all goes well, they’re hoping to be able to operate by the end of next week. Father and SonIf Samuel had been born at 40 weeks, he might weigh over 8 pounds today, the way his daddy did when he was born, but with all his extra struggles, Feeling playful we’re just delighted that he’s passed the 5# mark!
(Dan and Sam are starting to relax and have some fun together!)Opening presents at the showerLast Saturday, Brianna’s sisters threw a wonderful baby shower for her.Fun at the baby shower We had tons of fun, Opening Gifts at Showerand Brianna got tons of presents, toys, clothing, and stuff one needs to take care Sisters threw a Baby Showerof a baby, so now all Sammy has to do is grow enough to fit into his new clothes! Baby ShowerWell, I guess he will also have to endure and recover from his hernia repairs, learn to eat and breathe well enough…so lots of challenges yet.Sammy at 40 WeeksBut, the doctors are encouraging us that if all goes well, he’ll be able to go home in 2+ weeks. We’re not crossing our fingers, but we’re all praying it will be soon!

Elin FaithBy the way, if you’re willing, there’s now a new baby in the NICU: “Elin Faith Gillis was born on 2/12/15 at 12:13pm after a placental abruption and rupture of membranes. She was 24 weeks and 2 days. She is being treated at the Helen Devos Children’s hospital in Grand Rapids. She is 15oz. Her due date was June 2nd.” Thank you!

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

The Greatest Leaders Serve Others

Sun rising after snowstormHave you ever aspired to being a great leader? Have you ever considered that God is the ultimate servant leader? Shocking thought, isn’t it? But, God, the Almighty creator and sustainer of the entire universe and our very lives, pours his sunshine on the just and the unjust, and (as the ancient poets wrote) “in him we live and move and have our being.” For all he does for us, what does he demand from us? Nothing but our love and trust! Deep blue pool at Yellowstone“The way up is down.” “Influence comes from serving.” “Be the change you want to see in others.” “The best leadership is an ark: A leader needs to define reality at the beginning, say thank you at the end, and be a quiet servant-leader in the middle.” Have you ever heard of Robert K. Greenleaf? I had not, until last week’s Sunday school class, where we were introduced to Greenleaf’s work on learning to be a servant leader. Greenleaf was inspired by reading Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East, a novel about band of men on a quest who were sustained by their servant…and lost without him. And, doubtless Hermann Hesse—who was a Nobel-prize-winning son of missionaries—found his inspiration in the life of Christ, who has been the world’s quintessential servant leader. Jesus Christ never demanded respect from anyone, yet he’s had more people revere and love him than anyone who’s ever lived, and he has more followers than any other person in the world…even today, over 2000 years after his death. Why? Because he’s God incarnate? Well, yes, perhaps that’s the reason. But, also—he was an amazing servant leader. He has won the hearts of his followers by loving us and providing for us…and he calls us to do the same for others. Jesus lived and taught us the way of love…of sacrificing ourselves so that others may live. Are we living out his calling?

Larry Spears took the work of Greenleaf and distilled it into 10 characteristics that need to be consistently practiced in order to be an effective servant leader. I’ve listed them, because I think they help concretize some of the behaviors of a servant leader. In our Sunday school class, we were challenged to think of an example from the Bible where each of these characteristics is demonstrated, so I’ve noted mine in parentheses.

1. Listening: a deep commitment to hearing and understanding what others are saying (Jesus listened to Blind Bartimaeus when others wanted to ignore him: Mark 10:46-52)
2. Empathy: understanding, accepting, and recognizing the unique worth of others (Jesus demonstrated this interacting with the woman caught in adultery: John 8:1-11)
3. Healing: the potential for facilitating wholeness in oneself and others (Healing was one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry. Luke 9:11, ” And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.”)
4. Awareness: awareness of self, others, and the world generally (Jesus had perfect discernment concerning how to work with people. Although he loved them, at one point we learn: John 2:24-24, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that nay should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”)
5. Persuasion: influencing others by what you do and say rather than by your authority (God himself does not demand our allegiance but rather persuades us to believe in him by faith: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” Hebrews 11:13.)
6. Conceptualization: able to nurture an ability to “dream great dreams”; set a compelling vision (Jesus teaching in Matthew 13:45-46, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”)
7. Foresight: understand the lessons from the past and today’s reality (Jesus not going to the feast when the disciples thought he should:”Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.” John 7:8
8. Stewardship: everyone owns the resources and the outcomes in trust  (Jesus taught us not to worry about materialistic gain: Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” As God’s children, we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ: Romans 8:17.)
9. Commitment to the growth of people: people have an intrinsic value beyond the contributions they make as workers (Jesus instructing Peter to feed God’s flock, John 21: 17, “And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
10. Building Community: servant leaders seek to build a sense of belonging and family into organizations that they lead (Jesus reassuring his followers that someday we will all be “at home” with God, our Father: John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”)

Beyond these specific principles that we can practice, I think the greatest virtue of a servant leader is love…allowing God’s love to transform us and flow from us to others.  “By love, serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).  Sunset on Lake copy“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.  But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (27): Cheerful Chickadees

Chickadee CardThe cheerful, black-capped chickadee is one of America’s favorite birds, Chickadee 2.9.12 and it’s one of the first birds most people learn to recognize, Black-capped chickadee. Snowy both by their call and coloring.  Chickadee in rain 11.6.13The happy sound of the “chickadee-dee-dee” call resonates through our woods Chickadee 5.10.14 during every season of the year, Spring on Lake 3.31.14 but it’s particularly notable in the spring, Chickadee in Spring 5.9.14 while the male is defending his territory, Chickadee in snow and in the depths of winter, Chickadee.Snow. 2.21.11 when few birds have the heart and energy to serenade the world! Chickadee 2 11.30.10 Chickadees are petite little birds with bright, black eyes, caps, and bibs, Chickadee 3.19.13 grey backs, white fronts, Chickadee Wing and buff patches along their sides and under their wings. Rain 11.6.13 Chickadees aren’t fair-weather friends, either! Deep snows They don’t vacation north in Canada for the summer Deep Snows 1.8.14 or follow other snowbirds south in the winter. Chickadee at feeder Once they choose their nesting site, they are year-round residents. Chickadee, Black-capped Ours come daily to our feeder, Nuthatch and Chickadee 11.6.13 although I’m always impressed by their peaceable, non possessive nature.Birds at Feeder 1.10.14 Other tiny birds of similar size (notably sparrows) can be very cantankerous in defending their turn at the feeder, Black-capped Chickadee 3.19.13 but the chickadees wait so patiently that at times I wonder if they’ve left the area.Chickadee on Railing However, once the other birds have left, the chickadees return. Chickadee Feeding Chickadees love both black and striped sunflower seeds, 1.15.10 and suet helps replace their need for protein during times when grubs and insects are hard to come by. Woodpecked snag Chickadees build their nests in trees with openings so small that predators Brown-headed Cowbird& unwelcome neighbors (like cowbirds), who don’t fit it at all, can’t get in at all! Chickadee 6.28.12Another endearing characteristic of chickadees is that they’re very curious,  friendly little fellows.Chickadee 11.30.10 If you stand outside—very still—with seeds in your hands,Black-capped Chickadee 2.17.15you can probably train them to eat right out of your hand! Chickadee 3.23.11All in all, they make great friends and neighbors, so if a pair drop by your house, DSCN8257I hope you make a little room for them in your heart (and at your feeder)…Davy Bird Watchingand please keep an eye out for them, just like we all need to do for one another! Chickadee in rain 11.6.13“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
(Romans 12:8)