Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

Exalta’s Free Dental Day: The Joy of Volunteering

dental-director-explaining-free-dental-day-to-volunteers-exalta-grand-rapids-miIf any of you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can’t afford dental care, exalta-healthI’d like to introduce you to Exalta Health, volunteers-at-exalta-grand-rapids-mia faith-based non-profit (largely funded by donations) x-rays-at-free-dental-day-exaltato help with health care needs for the poor and uninsured in our area. danielarmstrongOur son, Daniel, is the dental director there, briefing-for-free-dental-day-exaltaand a couple of times every year they offer a completely free dental day. full-waiting-room-at-free-dental-day-exaltaI probably should have written this post before—rather than after—free-dental-day-exalta-dental-caretheir last free day, which occurred last Friday. dr-armstrong-explains-procedures-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miHowever, if you’re interested, I’ll give information at the end of the post daniel-armstrong-dental-director-exalta-grand-rapids-miso that you can call and find out about when the next free dental day will occur. visual-screening-at-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThe Free Dental Day includes not only dental care, free-eye-care-at-free-dental-day-exaltabut free eye exams,  triage-nurse-at-free-dental-day-exaltasome minor medical triage,chaplain-at-free-dental-day-exalta and for those who are interested, free consultation with a chaplain. president-and-advancement-director-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta Health, (these two are our president and advancement director)exalta-health-dentistrywas formerly known as H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services, belonging to HIM). fatherson-team-volunteering-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miThis charity for the poor began 20 years ago, oral-surgeon-operating-exalta-grand-rapids-miand there are now professionals from over 2 dozen areas of healthcare  retired-husbandwife-dental-team-helping-at-free-dental-day-exaltawho volunteer their time and expertise dental-care-exalta-grand-rapids-mi to serve the needs of our under-served population. free-dental-day-extractions-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta’s motto is, “Reflecting the spirit of Christ, exalta-health-staff-and-volunteersour mission is to provide compassionate, accessible health care.” secretarial-support-and-volunteer-coordinator-at-exaltaAlthough over the past few years keeping-tools-cleaned-and-packaged-exalta-grand-rapids-miI’ve had the privilege in serving in a number of different capacities, two-generations-volunteering-together-at-exalta-health-free-dental-day-2this time I was the photographer, which was super fun. patients-waiting-for-help-at-exalta-healthIt just makes me so happy to see people come in with tooth pain smiling-patients-exalta-health-careand go out with a smile and a look of relief!  consulting-on-patient-care-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miSo, I want to encourage you in three ways:

waiting-room-at-exalta-free-dental-day*If you need help personally and live in our area,
feel free to contact Exalta Health:

https://www.exaltahealth.org/

dental-hygenists-students-from-gvsu*If you have some time to invest in caring for people in need, volunteers-waiting-for-patients-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miconsider Exalta Health as very rewarding place to volunteer. teeth-cleaning-zt-free-dental-day-exaltaThey need not only healthcare professionals and clinical support, learning-about-patients-exalta-free-dental-day-grand-rapids-mibut also volunteers who can help with general supportexalta-health-support(secretarial or maintenance skills, etc.).  volunteers-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThese were the volunteers last Friday.registration-table-for-free-dental-day-exaltaAnd, they minister to a lot of Hispanics, faithful-interpreter-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miso if you know Spanish, you’d be especially valuable! caring-for-patients-at-free-dental-day-exalta*If you live in another city but are a healthcare professional or have a heart  chaplain-serving-as-interpreter-at-exalta-healthto help the poor, look around and see what you can find in your area. oral-surgeon-helping-free-dental-day-exaltaIf there’s nothing available now, volunteer-at-exalta-healthmaybe you could be the impetus to begin something.  listening-to-orientation-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miIt is such a blessing to be a part of helping others in need!  🙂exalta-volunteersIn all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV) preparing-for-dental-treatment-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miFor the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,
and to thy needy, in thy land
” (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV). preparing-patient-for-x-rays-exalta-healthWe who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, ESV). dr-armstrong-working-with-a-patient-at-exalta-healthAnd we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV).

In the Spirit of the Ides of February

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Maureen Churabrutus-and-the-ghost-of-caesar-public-domain-wikiMost people know about the Ides of March, March 15, which was made infamous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and continued in infamy by Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, written some 1643 years later.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

However, did you know that February 15 also has special significance historically? February 15 was the date of an ancient ritual of purification, particularly washing with water, to purify people and their city from any evil spirits, which would allow the blessings of health and fertility to flourish as the citizens prepared for spring. februar_leandro_bassano-public-domainI don’t know about you, but I find all the dissension in America deeply disturbing, and I’m wondering if we might honor today as a day of personal purification coupled with earnest prayers for the healing of ourselves and our nation. It’s so easy to be critical of others…to make ourselves and our own values  into a gold standard for the way things should be. Can we instead humble ourselves and ask God to purify our hearts and straighten our thinking, so that we can see clearly and become a positive influence for good instead of adding to the cacophony of discord? There’s an old saying that “Charity starts at home,” and I think it’s just as true that “Purity starts with me.” Are we casting stones because we’re perfect and angry, or are we throwing mud because we’re frustrated that life is unfair and things aren’t going the way we think they should? Instead of adding to the problem, let’s pray that God will make us part of the solution by purifying our hearts and the hearts of our people. We can’t change others, but by God’s grace we can change ourselves. Then, I do believe God himself will rise up and move to work all things together for good…something no amount of fighting and anger will accomplish.mourning_mingrelians_pranishnikoff_1884“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (James 4:7-9)

Sampling Courageous Love: Many Shades of Light

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been working on a lot of wonderful quotes to share about love tomorrow, but today I want to talk about what real love is, because I believe too many people have become confused and no longer understand the difference between love and lust. Case in point will be the contrast between two new releases that are coming out: Courageous Love, and Multiple Varieties of Blacker Evil…or something like that. If you’re wondering what genuine love looks like, here are a few examples from Courageous Love:

actress-addilyn-houk-with-actress-jessica-koloian-copyLove protects and is tenderhearted: “Love is patient and kind.”  courageous-love-protecting-sisterLove confronts possible evil and seeks truth…but for the right reasons:
“Love does not envy or boast.”  courageous-love-helping-serveLove serves humbly: “It is not arrogant or rude.”     courageous-love-administrative-assistantLove speaks wisdom but allows free choice: “It does not insist on its own way;” actress-jessica-koloian-playing-michelle-long-7 Love listens and cares: “It is not irritable or resentful;”  courageous_love-timkaiserLove demands integrity: “It does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” courageous-love-telling-the-truthLove sacrifices self-interest: “but [love] rejoices with the truth.” courageous-love-faithful-sisterLove is faithful: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,” courageous-love-keeps-working-hard Love keeps working no matter how tired: “[Love] endures all things.”  jaredwithrow-jessicakoloian True love is sincere…forever: “Love never ends…”  courageous-love-lawyer-helpsLove reaches out to help even when it doesn’t know all the answers:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” courageous-love-solving-the-mysteryLove never stops trying to figure out the truth and learn more:
“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
  courageous-love-sisterLove is undyingly loyal: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;” courageous-love-shelby-engineeringLove leads to happy endings for all! “but the greatest of these is love.”courageous-love-cohort(Quotes above from 1 Corinthians 13)

I hope this inspires you to watch Courageous Love.
It would be a great way to celebrate genuine love this Valentine’s Day!  🙂

courageous-loveWoe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) courageous-love-knudsenSee that none render evil for evil unto any man;
but ever follow that which is good,
both among yourselves, and to all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).actress-kristina-kaylen-2Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

(The best photos were used by permission of Daniel Knudsen,
who directed the movie; the rest I took while watching the film.)

New Records Set in Super Bowl 2017: It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over!

tom-brady-wiki-by-jeffrey-beallSuper Bowl LI set nearly 25 new records and tied another 7, making it the most startling and exciting in Super Bowl history! A sampling of the firsts included:

* First Super Bowl ever to go into overtime

*Tom Brady appeared in 7 Super Bowls, the most by any one player

*Bill Belichick won his 5th Super Bowl, the most games won by a head coach

*Tom Brady won his 5th Super Bowl (at age 39 no less), the most games won by any quarterback

*Most points scored: New England’s James White set two new records for a running back, 20 points and 14 receptions

*Tom Brady set a record for most receptions completed: 43

*Tom Brady also set a new record for most yards in Super Bowl history: 466

*New England Patriot’s set a new record for the largest deficit to overcome: 25 points (biggest before that had been just 10 points)

*Patriots set a new record for offensive plays: 93

*Tom Brady set a new record for most passes attempted: 63

super-bowl-51Talk about an exciting game!! Did you watch the Super Bowl? I didn’t.  Alan watched until near the end of the fourth quarter when Tevin Coleman received the six-yard pass that left the score at 28 for the Atlanta Falcons to only 3 for the New England Patriots. In all of Super Bowl history, no team had been able to recover and win with stats like that, so Alan didn’t want to stay up just to watch the bitter end. Fine by me. I was getting sleepy anyway, and I didn’t know one team from another.

Imagine our surprise the next morning when we heard that the Patriots made an unbelievable comeback, tied the score at 28:28 by the end of the game, and then went on to win 34:28 in overtime. As the beloved catcher for the the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And, he should know, because he had a lot of exciting comebacks over the years after his games looked lost. He was a fighter! Did you know that Yogi’s record of winning 10 World Series Baseball Championships and being an 18-time All Star hasn’t been broken in the 45 years since he retired? Talk about never giving up. Super inspiring!1953_bowman_yogi_berra-wiki

To me, this Super Bowl is also super inspiring! Are you struggling with something? Feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, like you’ll never be able to climb out of the hole you’re in? Your life and my life ain’t over ’til they’re over. Let’s keep fighting and never give up! Recovery from the “largest deficit in history” may seem impossible, but don’t give up and fall asleep! Victory is possible, whether it’s financial, moral, physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever! By the way, if you’re over your head and need help, God is here; He loves you; He’s available! Just ask! It probably won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be pretty, but it’s possible. Know it. Do it!

superbowlliA bruised reed he will not break,  and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory (Matthew 12:20, ESV).

The Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3, ESV).

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3, ESV).

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, ESV).

 

An Avocado Boat of Ideas, Especially Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

avocadosAvocados (also known as “alligator pears” because of their rough, green skin and elongated shape) have won their way up from southern Mexico to America, where their consumption rate has more than tripled in the last 15 years! salad-pine-nuts-guacamoleAlthough technically a fruit (and they are used in fruit smoothies and as flavored milkshakes in some countries), their most common use in America and Mexico is in guacamole, used as a dip with tortilla chips or as a flavorful topping on various dishes. Because of their high fat content, avocados are sometimes used as a meat replacement in vegetarian dishes, although they are not high in protein. (They are high in fiber, however: Half an avocado is about 130 calories and will provide 20% of your daily fiber need.) tossed-salad-with-avocadoAvocados are also used as a garnish, eaten plain as a healthy snack (way better for you than a doughnut!), and are a common additive in vegetable salads, where they are especially useful in providing necessary oil for proper vitamin absorption. If you’re not familiar with avocados, please try them! fruit-bowlChoose firm, green ones with no dents or dark spots but are the least bit giving if you touch them. Keep them on the counter until they are slightly soft (not dark), and then use them immediately or store them in the refrigerator (Ideally, no more than a week). avocado-pit-being-removedTo use, cut lengthwise, and then take the pit out by stabbing with a knife and twisting gently. The California Avocado Commission recommends the “nick and peel” method of slicing the avocado into length-wise, quarter-inch slices and peeling like a banana. avoocado-sliced-in-halfI prefer to use a spoon and scrape off the entire inside lining, which is richest in carotenoid antioxidants. (However, this doesn’t produce the best looking bites, so if you want fresh slices, use the CAC’s method). discoloration-of-avocado-exposed-to-airAvocado does discolor quickly when exposed to air, so either serve it immediately after cutting or protect it with a little citrus juice and plastic wrap. (The first time this happened to me, I thought I must have cut my finger…)avocado-boat-with-ahi-tunaOne clever, simple entrée is to fill half an avocado with shredded meat (chicken breast, tuna, etc.). ahi-tuna-and-avocado-boatI also enjoy them as a simple side dish, known as an avocado boat (best by far with salt and lime juice). Just for the record (studies funded by avocado growers, of course), it’s been found that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier and have less heart disease. (I sometimes wonder if such studies are confounded by the economic status/social class of those studied, as avocados aren’t exactly cheap. [I always wait and buy them on sale.])

At any rate, I want to pass along my all-time favorite recipe for guacamole. Alan and I first fell in love with guacamole when it was made table-side at a little Mexican restaurant along San Antonio’s River Walk, and then we fell in love again in San Diego’s Gaslamp District last year. However, once when we were out of limes, my son Joel altered my recipe (gathered from watching these “bests” being made), and I think his is actually better than the best!

Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

guacamole-01-17-171 entire orange, peeled and cubed (this is the difference; everybody else uses fresh, squeezed lime juice, which ends up with a thicker guacamole but doesn’t taste as amazing) garlic-cloves1 cup cherry tomatoes cubed
2 garlic cloves peeled and pressed (worth the bother, so don’t substitute garlic powder unless you can’t afford fresh, although you can substitute both garlic and onion powder as needed)
guacamole-with-orange-garlilc-onion-and-tomato1 onion finely chopped
2 avocados peeled and well mashed
Salt (preferably coarse-ground seasalt) and pepper to taste (start light and add)avocado-into-guacamoleThe result is so flavorful that I could eat a bowl for lunch (and have been known to do so). However you serve them, though, I hope you enjoy avocados!

 “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.” (Daniel 1:11-16) (I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe in the high value of a largely vegetable and fruit diet with less meat, diary, and grain products.)

P.S.—Although I sometimes add avocado to omelets (just enough to heat through at the end), I’ve read that cooking avocados not only destroys the vitamins but can actually be toxic for some people. Also, guacamole can be frozen, but slices don’t freeze well, so enjoy them fresh!

P.S.S.—Got a favorite way of using avocados? Please share with us!