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On behalf of Allegheny Center Alliance Church and its partner Urban Impact Foundation I want to congratulate you on your planned participation in the Pittsburgh Marathon!  Whether you’re running a full or partial marathon the preparation and discipline necessary to do so speaks volumes about your determination.

You’ve clearly learned to focus on a task until it’s completed. And you’ve shown you’re willing to do the hard work that always precedes a worthwhile goal.

To assist you in your preparation for the big event and the marathon we all run—the marathon of life—we’ve prepared this 26 day devotional.  It focuses on selected passages from the Bible that speak of training, discipline, endurance, confidence and achievement. The writers are all ACAC and UIF staff members and volunteers from our faith communities.  Many of them are runners like you. As you read and reflect daily my prayer is that God will speak to your heart though His Word and equip you for both the race and the life that lies ahead.

Grace and peace,
Dr. Rock Dillaman, Lead Pastor ACAC

Is Hope Good for Your Health?

If you attended church this past weekend, you heard Pastor John's sermon Hopeful Suffering (if you missed it, click the link and you can listen to the archive). He told us of an ordeal he went through in Zimbabwe and said he always had hope that God would do something good out of it. He didn't know why it happened. He didn't know what (or if anything) would come out of it. He just had hope that God would use it for good. He learned twenty years later, God did.

In today's post, I will piggy-back off Pastor John's sermon and briefly cover the affect hope has on our health. I say briefly because the affects of hope on illness and daily well-being have been recognized in the medical community as important and relevant (instead of nonsensical) and the information out there is overwhelming. I'll do my best to narrow it down and make it important and relevant for you.

Dictionary.com defines hope as "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" and "to place trust." As Christians, to put our hope in the Lord is to trust Him - with every detail of our life. I'm not telling you something you don't already know. If you read the Bible and hear the weekly sermons, you are aware and understand the place of hope in our lives. So let's get a bit more academic and see how this pertains to being healthy.

A
study of hope done by the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses describes hope as "an energizing, mental activity focused on future outcomes important to the individual. Hope is one factor that has been shown to be positively related to health-promotion behaviors." The study concludes, "...a moderate, positive relationship was found between hope and a health-promoting lifestyle. Hope was significantly correlated with spiritual growth and interpersonal relations." Hmmm... it would seem that science is finally catching up with the Bible!

Here are a couple of things the Bible says on spiritual growth:

1 Peter 2:2 - Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
Ephesians 4:15 - Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
I wonder: Does growing stronger spiritually lead to greater hope or does having hope lead us to grow spiritually stronger, and does it matter? Please comment to share your thoughts.

Aside from the fact that the entire Bible is about interpersonal relationships, here's a verse or two (or three):
Genesis 2:18 -
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Mark 12:30-31 - And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

The Bible is all about us growing spiritually and having relationships (the most important one, of course, is a relationship with God) and science is now recognizing that yes, the Bible is real and true and inerrant. Speaking of science, let's get back to an academic perspective on hope being necessary for health and well-being.

The book description on Amazon for
Between Stress and Hope: From a Disease-Centered to a Health-Centered Perspective reads, "With modern life being a major cause of stress, and stress being one of the major causes of illness, there is much interest today in studying the psychology of stress, as well as the psychology of another concept that can power better health: hope." I found this book interesting, but didn't get too far in so I'm only going to share the opening sentences from the intro that I thought were relevant:

"The concept of stress has come to occupy an increasingly central place in psychology...as the modern human has been continuously bombarded. While at the cognitive level, human beings have adjusted to the technological and scientific innovations, physiological systems and ... emotional capacity had not undergone an adaption process. The price of this discrepancy has been paid in an increased rate of stress-related diseases, anxiety, and depression."
NOTE: For further reading on combatting the above quote, I recommend the book
Crazy Busy by Christian pastor and author, Kevin DeYoung. It's a humurous and short book about being too busy these days and how to find a balance between social media, family, friends, ministry, and God.

The abstract of another
study begins: Patients with many types of diagnosis find that hope is an important strategy in coping with their illness. Unfortunately, I didn't have access to read the actual study, but I think hope is shown as essential in this one statement.

A very interesting article written by Ronna Jevne, MD, PhD and titled '
Enhancing Hope in the Chronically Ill' defines hope as "a complex intangible, without which the best medicine and best health care professionals are powerless to restore health in the chronically ill or to instill comfort and peace in the terminally ill."

Lastly, a
study on hope and depression concluded with "
hope must be considered when developing services to reduce depression..."

Clearly, hope is vital to our health and well-being! As Christians, we know our hope comes from the Lord yet in the midst of life's struggles, we tend to forget, don't we? Dear Readers, I want to encourage you today to make sacrifices in your life so that you may be blessed and filled with the hope of Jesus no matter the circumstances. Maybe your sacrifice is to pray on your knees next to your bed before getting in the bed (and falling asleep halfway through your intended prayer). Maybe your sacrifice is to close Facebook and open the Word of God (although, is that really a sacrifice?). Maybe your sacrifice is to give up a couple of your activities so you'll have more time to be actively studying the Bible. I'm convinced Satan loves nothing more than to keep us from prayer and study of God's Word, our most powerful weapons to fight him with, by keeping us busy (Being Under Satan's Yoke) with ministry activities. I'm not saying doing ministry work is bad; I'm saying that sometimes we say yes to multiple ministry opportunities (not giving 100% to any), but God only said yes to one. Maybe your sacrifice is getting up earlier to spend time with Him or giving up junk food so the temple that is your body is healthy enough to do His Work. Our only hope is in Jesus, but if we aren't making sacrifices in our lives to truly know Him and have an intimate relationship with Him, how can we expect to have hope in times of trouble? If you are struggling to have hope today, I leave you with a favored verse to reflect on:


"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:31

Have a happy, healthy day!
K.Rae
PS. I'm not a doctor, not a scientist, and offer no cures for anything that ails you. I'm just a flawed daughter of the Most High who shares information I randomly pick up off the internet. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I got some of those links mixed up so read at your own risk!
PSS. While I had intended on blogging consistently again, this will be my last post as ACAC will be doing away with LiveJournal (due to lack of traffic and activity). At this time, there are no other plans for a blog.

Where Do I Start?

While it has been a long time since I blogged a Healthy for Christ post, it hasn't been a long time since I thought about it, especially since Pastor Blaine's heart surgery. Having two of our beloved pastors undergoing heart surgery in such a short time, it really gets you thinking, you know? One of the things I thought about was when I was on staff at ACAC, I would cover for Sheran White when she went to Kenya. As the assistant to both pastors, covering for her made me privy to just how much stress these men are under in their calling to shepherd us. Their email inboxes didn't have hundreds of emails, but literally thousands. Okay, Pastor Blaine had thousands. Pastor Rock was and is, of course, on top of everything (wink, wink). I used to have fun sending Sheran little messages about how many saved voicemails I discovered or what crazy jokes Pastor Rock used to tease Pastor Blaine with.

Anyway, thousands of emails, I can't even imagine! Trying to convert the couple of personal email addresses I have into one has had me overwhelmed for years. Yes, years because no matter how many things I unsubscribe to, those darn inboxes just keep growing and growing. Ah, fah-ge-da-bowt-it. Then that gets me thinking about technology and how it has complicated our lives when it was supposed to make them easier, but that is another topic for another time.

Our shepherds have people pulling them in every direction and nothing irks me more than hearing someone complain that a pastor didn't get back to them right away or didn't say "hi" to them. I am the first one to admit to having tunnel vision when I have a list of projects needing my attention. I can be so focused, either while at my desk or in my head while running from here to there, that someone can call my name or wave dramatically at me and I'd have no clue. To quote my aunt, "A bomb could go off and Kathy wouldn't notice." And let's face it, in this day and age, we are all overworked and overwhelmed. We are connected 24/7 and the line between work and play has become blurred. I imagine most people feel the added pressure of being connected 24/7 as co-workers send them texts and facebook messages about work when they are "off the clock." That pressure is just a piece of what our pastors deal with, and they deal with it wholeheartedly because it is part of their calling from God.
(TINY PRINT: No pastor or leader of ACAC has endorsed this message. They don't even know about this message. This message is just the personal, ramblings of K.Rae.)

The next thing Pastor Blaine's heart surgery had me thinking about was the passion that still resides in me for God's people to be healthy. It's been hard for me because in spite of changing bad habits into healthy ones - by going back to the lifestyle I lived as a Certified Nutritionist - fibromyalgia somehow found itself cozy living in my body. I've been through so many different emotions, including grief and resentment, and blogging about being healthy was the last thing I wanted to do. There have also been days that I've wanted to blog again, but I simply didn't have the energy or brain power (my brain gets highjacked in a dance the experts call "fibro-fog"). So everything is harder for me, but the voice is still there, the one telling me that God's people (including myself) need encouragement to get healthier and all the jumbled, conflicting, confusing information out there concerning health and nutrition needs researched and simplified, needs to be accessible for His children who struggle with being healthy in a time they are connected 24/7, in a time they are too distracted and too busy to really deal with it.

And what about all our brothers and sisters struggling with chronic illnesses? I met a lovely woman with a huge heart for the Lord. She suffers from debilitating and powerful pain from the many, many back surgeries she's had. During the time I met her, she shared with me that she had been suicidal because she just couldn't take the pain anymore. What was more heartbreaking to me was that she was married and her husband loved her and was good to her, but she didn't share this with him. She had stopped sharing her physical struggles with her loved ones because they just couldn't understand her struggles no matter how she voiced them. She is not alone in this as time after time, I've met people with chronic conditions who no longer had a voice. There are so many reasons our modern-day Pauls (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) no longer speak, and Lord knows I don't have any problems opening my mouth on the behalf of others! I know, I know, that's not necessarily a good thing, but you get my point.

I was talking to Pastor Rock about this blog and I told him I didn't know how to get back into the groove. I've been out of the Healthy for Christ mindset for so long, you know, what do I blog about first? He said, "Just tell them, 'I'm back!'" ... Okay.

Readers, I'm back!

Please comment if you have any specific topics you'd like me to blog about (and to hold me accountable because I am very forgetful these days). In the meantime, I'll just pull stuff randomly from my head and pray it helps someone.

Have a happy, healthy day!
K.Rae

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
It's that time of year. We'll run as many errands in the next month as we've ran all year. Gifts to buy, trees to decorate, calendars full of party after party requesting us to bring a dish. I was asked weeks ago by two different people if I would be making my Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili. Yes, it's quite delicious and I'm always hoping there'll be some left to take back home! Today, I'm sharing the recipe with you, but first, click the links to see the amazing health benefits of sweet potatoes and black beans.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (I often lean a little heavy on the garlic side so use your preference)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in bite-size cubes (I generally add the cubes to the crock-pot dish after peeling and cutting until about 3/4 full to determine "1 1/2 pounds")
14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes w/green chili
15.5-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
minced jalapeños or canned chipotle chiles to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to coat with the spices.

2. Transfer the mixture to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans, and water; season with salt, cover, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

3. When ready to serve, stir the jalapeños or chipotles into the chili. Taste to adjust the seasonings.

Serves 4 to 6 as full meal.

I adapted this recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, a book I highly recommend as there are many amazingly tasty recipes that are super easy to make.

Until next time!
K.Rae

Completely Holy

“May the God of shalom make you completely holy — may your entire spirit, soul and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23



God has put a few things on my heart regarding health. The first, He desires health just as He desires any other good thing for us. Second, good stewardship includes taking care of your body. Lastly, He has given us everything we need to be healthy in His Word.



The NIV version of the above verse reads, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” We are set apart by God for sacred use. I have this vision in my mind of a person set apart for sacred use, someone completely holy. The person I envision is wearing white – a white robe – and light is shining off of this person. This person isn’t sick, isn’t overweight, isn’t stressed out. In the midst of the work this person is doing, there is no anxiety or fear. There is a calm assurance, an intimacy with God beaming from them.


Completely holy and yet, so many Christians don’t believe their health is important to God. We don’t get it – that God’s sanctification, that being pure and completely holy is hindered by us not making our health a priority.


“Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards.” If you didn’t catch it, this is one of the Core Values of The Christian & Missionary Alliance. It’s accompanied with 1 Chronicles 29:14 that talks about giving generously to God’s Kingdom as all we receive is from God anyway. Are not our bodies also given to us by God? Should we not then be good stewards of our bodies also?


The Word of God is filled with passage after passage about living and being healthy. Starting in Genesis, “Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” and yet we choose man-made, processed, toxic foods to eat instead of the plants and fruits God created for us to eat.


Additionally, it’s not just about what we’re eating, it’s also about what we’re feeding our minds, feeding our souls. Proverbs teaches a great deal on God’s Word giving us health:

·         3:1-2 – “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years…”

·         3:7-8 – “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

·         4:20-22 – “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

One of my favorite verses comes from Jeremiah 30:17 – “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord.” These wounds the Lord declares He will heal aren’t just physical wounds, they’re emotional wounds, as well. Completely holy.


Our founder A. B. Simpson believed a great deal that the health of Christians is biblical. In his book The Gospel of Healing, he writes:

Man has a two-fold nature. He is both a material and a spiritual being. And both natures have been equally affected by the fall. His body is exposed to disease; his soul is corrupted by sin. We would therefore expect that any complete scheme of redemption would include both natures, and provide for the restoration of his physical as well as the renovation of his spiritual life.

He further writes that the life of Jesus “supplies the source of health and life for our redeemed bodies.” He says “the death of Jesus has slain all our old self,” that “the life of Jesus is the spring of all new life.” If you are a Christian, you are living a new life. Simpson says we need to let go of old dependencies or “we shall be disappointed,” for “when we cease to put confidence in the flesh, and look only to Christ and His supernatural life in us for our strength of body as well as spirit” only then can we be completely healthy as God intended.


Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”


1 Corinthians 3:16-17


We are God’s temples, all of us, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. How then can we so casually neglect our health? Are you throwing a frozen dinner in the microwave or are you eating fresh foods? Are you sitting in front of the TV all night or do you spend an hour a day, thirty minutes even studying God’s Word? Have you given up on prayer because you’re so wracked with guilt and shame over certain areas of your life or do you pray anyway?


Brothers and sisters, He has so much for us to do, but we’ve got to make our health a priority. Otherwise, how can we expect to complete all He has for us? How can we expect to get there, to be completely holy when we’re dragging our excess baggage around? Some of us may have a chronic physical condition. Some of us may have a chronic spiritual condition or emotional condition, but let’s begin today to surrender it all to Him.


Lord, without You, we have no hope of becoming completely holy and I ask today that You would not just convict us, but would give us the awareness and strength to start right now to make our health a priority for You and all You have planned for us.


An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey

The journey I’ve been on this year is one I know so many of my fellow brothers and sisters can relate to. Living with a chronic condition of any kind doesn’t just affect you physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well. Anger, grief, and despair have been constant companions competing with my faith and joy in the Lord. I’ve struggled with feelings of being half the woman I used to be, doing half as much as I used to do, and blogging about being healthy has been far from my mind.


Ah, but God.


Into my hands came the book An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey. It is written by Dr. John P. Stumbo and his wife, Joanna, and tells of the mysterious journey God has taken them on. Almost overnight, John went from running ultra-marathons and preaching every Sunday to living in a hospital, unable to move and even breathe sometimes. He spent 77 days in the hospital and for 18 months, he couldn’t eat. Doctors were stumped and his condition never diagnosed.

Throughout the book, John courageously shares his less-than-perfect moments while walking through this dark time. He offers hope to those who suffer by being vulnerable, open, and real. He is unguarded in his writing. His mask is off and it is refreshing. I’m reminded of the song Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns. If the love of Jesus is enough, why do so many Christians hide behind walls and smiles?

Oh, I know, I’m the pot calling the kettle black. I often dread being asked, “How are you feeling?” I know people love me and genuinely want to know how I’m feeling, but I don’t always know how to answer. I have pain every day. While it is better or worse on certain days, it’s there, every single day, and I just don’t know how to answer without being dishonest.

                 

  “We wanted to choose isolation ... emotionally, it took everything we had to face people ... even great church people ... we were weary ...”

What I do know, however, is that so many of our brothers and sisters can relate, and this is what I love so much about Pastor John’s book! He gives us permission to feel a hot mess and to have days when we are low on faith.

  “I’ll confess that the scripture felt like sandpaper to my soul.”

In a humorous way, he shares intimate details of his sometimes pity parties, and he shows us that God uses them to encourage and edify each other (and ourselves) just as much as He uses our joys and delights and the days we could walk on water our faith is so strong. John’s life-changing journey reminds you that God loves you every day, every moment no matter how you are or aren’t feeling. God loves you and He is using you and your struggle for good. He’s working miracles in you and the people around you. Most importantly, no matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone.

  “I’ve come to believe that my experience is a common one. While our own faith is being hammered, pulverized, shredded, or threatened to its very core, we have others around us who keep believing for us.”

Pastor John speaks of feeling inhuman. “I live, but do not eat ... this is not human. This is not what it means to be alive.”

He speaks of his soul finding comfort from Job’s story. “Job, in truth, had become my friend ... and mentor.”

His faith and trust in God were often in competition with his trials and struggles. He saw God in it all and never stopped believing that He is good. “My head heard what my heart couldn’t feel, God is in this, even in the silence, and He is good.”

In the context of being Healthy for Christ, we all have stuff. Healthy stuff, unhealthy stuff, spiritual stuff, emotional stuff, financial stuff, physical stuff ... We have a combination of stuff and a whole bunch of other stuff. We have stuff and we are afraid to share it, but Dr. Stumbo shares his stuff and it’s encouraging and inspiring.

If you haven’t read An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey, I highly recommend it. You can purchase a copy online or in the ACAC bookstore. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. If it gave you hope or encouraged you, please do share your story with the prayer that your journey, your stuff would inspire someone else.

Have a Blessed Day!

K.Rae

Change is Possible - One Step at a Time

Just the thought of "changes" has recently caused my blood pressure to rise.  At least, I'm pretty sure of the whole "blood pressure rising" bit.  I haven't stopped at the little machine at the grocery store to test it out, but I'm pretty darn sure because I've been the sole researcher of Health Care Reform and how it will affect our church.  And it isn't just this new law coming into play, but also old laws that are being changed and revised in all the other agencies!  I asked an employment law attorney how the heck little ole K.Rae is supposed to be able to keep track of it all.  I've researched til I'm blue in the head... And I don't just use Joe Shmoe's blog for information - I want the hardcore, raw truth of these changes.  No incompetent blogger is going to mess with my church by giving me wrong information, you know?  I'm getting down and dirty reading legislature and junk I never in my life wanted to read and when the Department of Homeland Security revised a form that new employees are required to fill out last week, I broke down crying.  The form is 4 pages longer, but it really isn't a big deal.  So, yeah, I'm not fond of change these days.

Why in the world am I telling you this?  Because let's face it, change can be hard for all of us.  Oh, you might be okay with moving or getting a new job, but what about your unhealthy habits?  Man, they are so hard to break!  You notice I've never blogged about coffee or caffeine?  There's a reason, Dear Readers.  I haven't drank soda since I wrote about how harmful it is to our bodies.  At this point, I don't even want to think about giving up coffee or caffeine!  After all, my favorite African tea from Kenya is loaded with caffeine and I can only drink it sparingly, but I still drink it.

Change is hard, changing your lifestyle from an unhealthy one to a healthy one is even harder, but change is always possible.  It doesn't matter how out of shape you are or what age you are, change is always possible.  I believe our problem stems from trying to do everything at once: exercise 5 times a week when we haven't exercised in 10 years PLUS eat only vegetables and fruits when we've lived on frozen pizza and mac-n-cheese PLUS give up sugar and caffeine PLUS drink more water PLUS get more sleep, etc........... and let's not forget our spiritually (un)healthy habits.  "Starting today, I'm going to read the Bible for two hours each night."  Pfff!  It's too overwhelming to think about and you cannot do it all overnight, or even in a week or two.  Just like I can't change our entire Operations and Human Resources procedures in one day, you can't completely change your lifestyle in one day.

My pastor told me I needed to better prioritize all that comes across my desk because I get in panic mode and try to accomplish a lot more than is feasible in one day or one week.  I have to learn to say to myself, "Yes, this law changed, but we're not hiring anyone right now so I can put this off until next week."  I'm SOOO not good with that, but I believe God is right here helping me.  I believe without a doubt He put me in this position at the church for exactly this time - even though three years ago, I daydreamed about running out the door and never coming back, haha!  I'm honest and it isn't anything my pastors don't already know.

In the current environment (and the environment over the next few years), I have to accept there will be many changes and I have to learn how to prioritize those changes.  I have faith that my God will teach me and equip me to do this and to get done what is needed for His Kingdom, for His Church.  I also believe that He will teach you and equip you to change your unhealthy habits (and me, too!) because you being healthy is PART OF HIS PLAN.  We can't fight spiritual battles of we aren't spiritually healthy.  We can't accomplish all He needs us to if we are sick and unhealthy.  We can't make rational, godly decisions if our emotional health is so out of whack that we land in our pastor's office crying because the government changed a form.  Like you, I am a work in progress.  I struggle to be healthy, too, but it is possible.  Change is possible, but you gotta take it one step at a time.  Temples aren't built in a day.

I recommend this week that you make a list of all the barriers you face in your desire to live a healthier life.  For each barrier, write what your life would look like without the barrier.  Then create a solution to overcome that barrier.  Maybe you come up with three or four solutions, but start working on just one.  One step at a time, one solution at a time.  As you work on your health goals, keep picturing in your mind what your life would look like without the barrier.  And keep believing that God is here with you - teaching you, helping you, and equipping you to live a life healthy for Christ.

Blessings!
Kathy Rae

Chocolate - Friend or Foe?

Today has been a rough day for me.  This week, actually, as my fibromyalgia rules it's ugly head.  I've missed two days of work because I just couldn't function.  My hands are, of course, having their say in the matter.  I drag my frustrating body into work and know I'm irritable and so much fun to deal with.  Ah, but head down the hall to the Leadership department because there is always chocolate to be found!  Pastor Sheldon's desk always holds a bowl of mini chocolate bars and for a special treat, someone put another bowl of what looks to be expensive chocolates on the meeting table.  Hecks yes, I say!  Sheldon in a meeting?  Let me just sneak into his office, you know, because if he saw me sneak the delectable candy, he'd tease me to no end.  Pastor John was also in the same meeting - lucky for me!!

So is chocolate good for us?  Well, it's the first thing my body wants when I'm stressed out, even when I've done well to avoid sugar and processed foods.  Is there something in chocolate that a body needs when stressed out?  Of course, my plan is to find research supporting my hope that it's the best thing ever for a stressed out body!!  Here's what I found:

Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants (yippee!).  The antioxidants in chocolate are called flavonoids.  However, while antioxidants are known to prevent cancer in other forms (like tea), there have been no studies done to see if chocolate antioxidants prevent cancer.  My opinion: Someone bet get on it!!

These flavonoid antioxidants are also linked to inhibiting cardiovascular disease, but like cancer prevention, no research has yet been conducted on actual chocolate inhibiting anything.

Chocolate is a mood booster (woohoo, I knew it!).  Chocolate increases serotonin levels in the brain and makes you feel better which is why you may very well crave chocolate when highly stressed.  However, chocolate has a lot of fat in it, bad fat, so I don't recommend eating a box of ho-ho's in front of your TV after work.... and now I totally get why I put on 20 extra pounds in 2011... The key?  Eat in moderation.

Dark chocolate is richer in flavonoids than milk chocolate, but as with anything, the more you process it, the lower the antioxidant power.  The milk in chocolate may also prevent the flavonoids from doing any good so eat dark chocolate instead.  For those of you who don't like dark chocolate, well, I just don't have anything to say.

Chocolate contains caffeine.  My thought: Maybe I should switch to decaf coffee when I make my special Mocha a la Kathy.  So if caffeine makes you jittery, you should only eat chocolate in moderation.

Well, that was enough to convince me that a little chocolate during stressful times is okay.  However, too much of a good thing can be bad for you, and my recommendation is to eat organic, dark chocolate.  You'll pay a little more, but it's well worth it.  You can also find great, healthy chocolate recipes like this 15-Minute Dark Chocolate Truffles.  I know, who wants to eat prunes, but I'm telling you, a friend made these for our Healthy Living class and they were fabulous!  It was all I could do to not pick up the plate and run with it.

Remember, I'm no doctor or specialist.  I just like to share information I find regarding healthy living so always check with your doctor before replacing medication with chocolate injections.

For the holiday season, here’s a totally healthy and yummy cookie recipe!

Sugar-Free (Almost) and Gluten-Free Cookies with Almond and Flaxseed Meal
(Makes about 15 cookies)

Sugar-Free-cookies-almond-flaxseed Picture

Ingredients:
1/2 cup trans-fat free margarine (I recommend Earth Balance organic butter spreads)
1 1/2 cups almond meal (I recommend Bob's Red Mill brand)
2 T flaxseed meal (I recommend Bob's Red Mill brand)
1 cup Stevia sweetener (I use SweetLeaf’s Stevia – 1 packet = 2 tsp. sugar and it’s all organic and GMO-free!)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. organic vanilla
1/4 tsp. aluminum-free baking soda
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Put on a plate for rolling cookies:
2 T granulated sweetener (I recommend SweetLeaf Stevia Sugar Leaf)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Instructions:

In large mixing bowl, beat margarine with electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add half the almond meal, Stevia, flaxseed meal, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and cream of tartar and blend well with mixer until thoroughly combined. Beat in the rest of the almond meal. Cover bowl and chill several hours, or as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine 2 T granulated sweetenr and ground cinnamon on plate. Use a tablespoon to scoop out dough, then roll into a small ball and roll in sweetener/cinnamon mixture. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. (I used a fork to smash the cookies down, which is optional.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cookies are slightly firm and starting to brown. (I got distracted and baked them a few minutes too long, but they still tasted great.) Cookies will get more firm as they cool. These cookies are a bit more crumbly than regular cookies, but I thought the crisp texture was really nice. Cookies will keep for a few days, or can be frozen for a few months.

(I found this recipe on Google at http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2008/02/sugar-free-and-gluten-free-cookies.html)

I pray, Dear Readers, that you have a very blessed holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus!!!

K.Rae

Are You Resting or Are You Busy?

Hello, dear readers!  I'm back from my blogging break and oh, how I have missed you.  I owe tons of thanks to Sheran White and Tara Conroy for guest blogging for me and I hope this blog finds you well and full of joy this holiday season (instead of stressed out and tired).  Really, I hope you will take time out between Christmas parties, volunteer committments, and family things to take care of you.  A dear friend of mine and I had a conversation just a week ago about how she never takes time out for herself.  Today, she's sick in bed with a monster virus and feels horrendous.  She's so busy, always, that I wonder if God finally said, "I'm going to make you sit still!"  I truly believe He does that sometimes to draw us closer to Him.  And this is the season to draw closer to our Lord and Savior.

A friend emailed me an acronym for busy.  She heard this on WORD FM a month or so ago and I'd love to share it with you:
B-Being
U-Under
S-Satan's
Y-Yoke
Did that light a lightbulb inside you like it did me?  The truth of those words are powerful.  I know I'm trying hard to learn to live a life doing less.  It isn't easy and I don't have a husband or children so I can only imagine how busy many of you are!  Unfortunately, though, when we push ourselves too much, we crash and it ain't pretty. 
 
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
- Genesis 2:2-3 (bold emphasis added)

If the all-powerful Almighty rests, why do we feel like we can't?  We should also rest and we should feel okay about resting instead of feeling guilty about it.  God Rests!!!

One of the definitions for rest is: a natural periodic loss of consciousness during which the body restores itself.  Well, God created our bodies and He rests, so chances are He created our bodies to rest, which would be that "natural" time our bodies need to regenerate and re-energizing themselves.  Some more definitions: freedom from activity or labor; a state of motionlessness or inactivity; peace of mind or spirit.  Peace of mind or spirit.  Even when I'm resting I'm not at peace because I'm thinking about all the things I should be doing.  Anybody know what I mean?  

I have to learn to be okay with resting now and it. is. hard.  My body needs more rest than it did before and when I don't listen to my body, it just flares up with all sorts of pain and fatigue and then I can't get out of bed.  And then I really don't get anything done!  Chronic disease or not, I know you've been there.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” - Psalm 62:1-2

And that's the problem with Being Under Satan's Yoke, we don't find rest in God alone because we don't have time to (and I won't even mention how we instead end up finding our rest in holiday cookies - God is totally better for your health than cookies).  This holiday season, readers, take time for you.  Take time to rest.  Take time for God.

See you soon!
K.Rae
(definitions taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)