I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pondering Healthy Living In A Busy Household

Pondering Healthy Living

By Alena Tauriainen

I wanted to ponder healthy living today but be forewarned I’m in a snarky mood.

I turned forty last year and well, I think there was a chemical or hormonal miscommunication with my body that told it to slow down on the whole metabolism thing.  Seriously?  I did not send the memo; somebody slipped it by me.

All the things I did before forty stopped working.  No problem I could figure this out. I am after all, a mature woman with a business and four absolutely (if slightly insane) kids ranging from ten to eighteen.  I could handle this.


Here are some of most common suggestions:
  1. Wake up earlier - Seriously?  I average about five hours of sleep as it is.
  2.  Cut back on your caloric intake -  Have you ever run three miles or finished a sixty-minute aerobics class and NOT been hungry?
  3. Put your fork down in-between bites so your stomach has time to get the message your full.  - Who uses a fork these days?  It’s a burger or a taco on the fly.
All right, sarcasm aside here are some ideas that work for me.
1.     Accountability – If I tell my buddies what I’m doing or I plan to meet them to work-out, chances are I’m going to stick to it.
2.     Information – We live in a world of instant information. Get an app on your smart phone to track your eating or your workouts.  Runtastic is one of the apps I use to help me track work-outs. I also signed up for daily fit tips from fitnessmagazine.com
3.     Pictures.  I pulled out my honeymoon pictures on the beach in the Cayman Islands then I looked in the mirror. Talk about serious motivation. Or how about hearing your kids say, “Mom was that really you?”  Yes, you know God is into modern day miracles, that child is still living and breathing.
4.     Just Do ItYou have to decide. Only you can make it happen.
5.     Be realistic.  I will never be a size five.  Never.  But I can be healthier and leaner by eating better and exercising regularly.

Remember the best idea is the one that works. What tools or tricks have you learned to be healthier?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Naming the Characters in a Story

Writers give a lot of thought when they name the characters in their story. They don’t simply choose a favorite name of one of their children or friends.

Names can reflect age, personality traits, family background, relationships, and even genre.

For Example, Mercy Stone Goodwill might suggest Anglo-Saxon, a woman of stern character, or a fundamentalist; John Adams Carrington, a family of proud heritage; Sunshine Smith, a hippy heritage.

We also consider generation appropriate names. A World War II story could have names such as Linda or Janet, but not so likely a modern name such as Danica or Chloe. Stories set in the 1800’s would be might have Catherine or Elizabeth rather than Brooke or Tracie. The government social security web site can even let you search for the top baby names of each year.

For Fantasy or Science Fiction, you can get clever with names, but remember to choose names easy to read. I’d go for Klav rather than Klastriecienic. (Okay, I totally make that last one up.)

Choosing similar names can also confuse the reader: Tim, Jim, and Kim.

I also like to give nicknames to my characters. A boss in the story my call my character Daniel, while his mom says Danny, and friends say Dan.

Or call an elderly house-keeper, Betty. A friend for many years affectionately calls her “Lady B”; a quirky man may call his wife “Marion” or sweetheart” when addressing her but “Lady Marion” when talking to friends.

Nicknames can even add conflict to the story. How about a young lady named Candice but some friends shorten it to Candi? That leads to someone calling her Candy Cane or Skittles. Maybe she had so much of this during her high school years that it’s a real sore point. The next time someone innocently tries it, she blows!

A number of web sites help me when I think of names.
Or visit http://www.behindthename.com/random/  (have fun with this one!)

What considerations do you make when naming characters? And what’s you favorite name for a child today…or tell me why you chose the name for your pet!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Passover in Two Testaments

I was raised in church, yet, until I was in my thirties, I struggled to understand Communion. After all, the Bible says that after the disciples finished eating, Jesus used a cup and bread to symbolize the redemption his imminent death and resurrection would supply. I’ve seen my dining room table after dinner:  leftover scraps of food and half-empty glasses complete with backwash. How could the pitiful remnants of a meal possibly represent the precious body and blood of Jesus? 

Then, when I was 32 a Messianic Rabbi came to our church to explain New Testament Communion within the context of Old Testament history. I had no idea the OT Passover was so connected to the NT Passover. It changed my life.

With Palm Sunday just three days away, Passion Week and Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread are just around the corner. I’d like to share a little history and help connect these holiday—and communion—by putting them into context. For the sake of brevity (my first draft was 1500 words!) I’m going to skip the flowery prose and use bullet points.

Old Testament Passover:
  •  Moses demanded the Pharaoh to free his people go free.
  • Even after a series of plagues, the Pharaoh refused.
  • God told Moses to find a lamb that to sacrifice on behalf of his people.
  • He instructed Moses to make sure the lamb was perfect in everyway.
  • Moses sacrificed the lamb. The people painted the blood on doorways.
  • The blood kept the Angel of Death, from taking their first-born males.
  • The Pharaoh lost his son; in his grief allowed the slaves to go free.
  • They fled Egypt in a great hurry, and walked for several days.
  • The Pharaoh’s grief turned to anger, and he sent his army after them.
  • At the Red Sea, the water and the armies trapped the multitude.
  • Moses lifted his staff and God parted the waters. 
  • They walked through to freedom.

New Testament Passover:
  • Palm Sunday Jesus rides into town on a donkey.
  • He is greeted by a crowd of people waving palms.
  • He rides directly to the Jerusalem Temple.
  • For the next four days, he teaches the people and answers their questions.
  • Religious leaders, Jews, and Gentiles observe him.
  • They all agree they can find no fault in him.
  • Jesus sends the disciples to set up for the Passover.
  • They share the Last Supper.
  • Jesus is arrested, beaten, “tried,” and crucified.
  • Sunday morning, his tomb is empty because he has risen from the dead.
If these stories sound similar to one another, it’s because they are! If you read all the accounts (in Scripture) very carefully, you will find dates attached to all of these events. Because the Jewish calendar is so different than the Roman calendar, often these dates mean nothing to us. But for context, they are incredibly important! See?

Nisan 10         God tells Moses to find a lamb to sacrifice
                       Jesus rides into Jerusalem and presents himself at the Temple

Nisan 11-13   Moses observes the lamb for any defects. He finds none.
                       Religious leaders observe Jesus for defects. They find nothing.

Nisan 14        Moses prepares the people for their exodus and the Angel of Death
                      Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure
Nisan 15        The lamb was sacrificed (in specific ways at specific times.)
                      Jesus is crucified (with specific times mentioned)

Nisan 17        Moses and the multitude walk through the Red Sea
                      Jesus rose from the dead.

God instructs Moses to memorialize the event yearly by celebrating a specific meal with foods and songs to educate subsequent generations on the history of God’s faithful deliverance from slavery and bondage. Several thousand years later, God’s people still celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread all over the world. In fact, the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples looks very much like a seder.

It’s impossible to cover the elaborate symbolism present in a seder service, so I am only covering the two elements that are synonymous with Communion.

1  The Bread:
  • Unleavened bread, or matzah is used. It must be free of any leavening.
  • Because of its texture, holes must be poked into it for even baking.
  • Parts are a little toastier than others.
  • One might say it appears to be pierced and striped.
  • Before the seder, the leader puts three pieces of matzah into the Unity.
  • The Unity is a linen three-sleeved pocket.
  • At the beginning of the meal, the leader removes the center matzah.
  • The leader breaks it in half, putting one half back into the Unity.
  • The other is wrapped in linen and hidden.
  • It returns after the actual meal to be reunited with its other half.

2  The Wine:
  •   A Passover seder includes three cups of wine.
  •   Each cup represents a promise God made to His people (Exodus 6:6-7): 
              “I will bring you out.”
              “I will deliver you.”
              “I will redeem you.”
              “I will take you"
  • First two are The Cup of Sanctification” and “The Cup of Deliverance”
  • They are toward the beginning of the Seder.
  • Cups three and four are brought out after the actual meal.
In a traditional seder, supper is an actual meal within the service. While the adults eat, the children look for the hidden linen-wrapped matzah. The leader reunites it with its other half, blesses it, and  then breaks the two pieces (that now appear to be one) into smaller pieces for each person at the table. Then the leader blesses the third cup of the seder, “The Cup of Redemption” and everyone at the table drinks.

To put this all into context, “after supper” Jesus took a piece of bread that symbolized his beatings and crucifixion, and a cup of wine that symbolized redemption to illustrate the power in his body and blood. 

God told Moses to keep the Passover feast (through the specific order outlined in Exodus 12:1-14) as “an everlasting ordinance.” Jesus told the disciples to do “This in remembrance of me.” Both Passovers represent redemption from slavery. In the case of the OT Passover, it was literal slavery. In the years since, countless Jewish and Gentile families have celebrated Passover as a yearly look back at the bondage from which God delivered them over the past year. 

It's a powerful feast, but I want to make it clear I am not implying Christians must celebrate it or that those who do are better than those who don't. Colossians 2:16-17 is very clear about judging each other for what we do regarding food, feasts, and sabbaths. I simply wanted to give you the beautiful context to which Communion belongs. It helped me make sense of some of the last words of Jesus and understand that instead of random leftovers, Jesus chose the Passover symbols God set in place thousands of years previous to represent redemption.

There is just too much information for one post, so I will continue on this subject on April 2nd (which just so happens to be the last day of Passover.) I will share about the symbolism of the Passover lamb and the Resurrection of Christ.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Would you rather run or fly?

By Jennie Atkins

I saw my first quail of spring today. They’re an odd bird. They have a plume, which my husband affectionately refers to as a “radar dish” on the top of their head. They can fly, but they choose to run, their tiny legs furiously working to get their bulky body out of the way. Later towards summer you see the parents crossing the road with a half dozen pint-sized versions of themselves. The little quail are no more than two inches tall and, like their parents, they run.

I can picture them after they’ve trekked to the side of the road dragging in a deep breath waiting for their little hearts to stop pulverizing their chest walls. Why when they could fly? They could soar above the danger that is bearing down on them, see their world from a different angle, and land in a safe haven of brush.

It made me wonder how often we as Christians run through our day, furiously working toward some goal, but never stopping to look at the world around us. How often do we fail to see God’s creation first hand, share a bit of God’s love and encouragement with others, or just stop and listen to His voice? Are we running, when God has provided a way for us to fly?

You might not see me, but I’m raising my hand here. I’m guilty as charged. I rush through my day, working, cleaning, checking in with the kiddos, and writing. I, like the quail, have put my feet in overdrive and never taken the time to “fly”.

God admonishes us to “be still and know that I am God”— not run ourselves ragged. He wants us to be like eagles and open our wings and let his bountiful breeze lift us above the mountain tops.

As writers, most of us also have a dreaded day job. So to accomplish our dreams we sometimes have to run around like the quail. But I encourage you to open your wings and let God show you what you are missing when you don’t “fly”.

Your turn.  Would you rather run?  Or fly?