“There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.” Author Unknown
What did you feel when you were told that Santa wasn’t real?
The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:11; NLT)
Do you believe in Santa Clause? At this time of year, believe in him or not, it sure is hard to ignore jolly old St. Nick, for certainly a significant portion of the attention of the season is directed his way even though he is NOT the reason for the season.
As a result of the above paradox, this time of year brings forth the ongoing debates about whether or not this should be so. No doubt you’ve heard, and perhaps engaged in some of them yourself. How should a Christian respond to Santa Clause?
Over the weekend, the Pastor of Student Ministries at our church, Adrian Schoonmaker, wrote a fascinating entry in his blog that I found to be a very sane and balanced response to that ongoing question. Before I lead you to his blog, allow me to tell you just a bit about Pastor Adrian.
Adrian and Joyce now have three very young children. This is a family that we have been very blessed to know quite well. Adrian is one of the most passionate youth ministers I have ever known and who has a heart to reach what many would label the unreachable “street kids.” The young people Adrian has pastored all seem to take great delight in going to improbable and seemingly impossible settings like the beach to talk about Jesus to those they meet. They embody the notion of the church being “out there” rather than “in here.”
I say all that to assure you that what you are about to read regarding Santa was not written by a “luke-warm” Christian who is looking for ways to integrate the world into his Christianity. Au contraire, Adrian is one who consistently seeks ways to integrate his faith into the world. With that as a background, enjoy his message by visiting today’s link.
Lord, we thank You for young ministry families such as Adrian and Joyce. They are a truly a blessing and an inspiration to us all. They are called to minister in a world that most of us don’t begin to understand. We pray for Your favor and guidance to be on them as they answer Your call.
Link of the Day
Blessings on you as you go into this season, remembering Who it is really all about.
“Artificial sweeteners such aspartame and sucralose–the kinds of chemical sweeteners found in diet soft drinks and many low-carb food products–actually promote obesity by tricking the body into thinking that sweet-tasting foods and drinks don’t contain as many calories as they really do.” International Journal of Obesity
What would you do if you learned that your “lack of knowledge” was causing you bodily harm?
Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. (Isa. 5:20, NLT)
I realize that today’s Daily Gram could make me very “unpopular” with some folks…and many may say I’ve gone from preaching to meddling. As many of you know when I’m passionate about something, I’ll speak what I believe to be truth, even if it means someone may take offense.
I’m often asked about Splenda. Splenda, is the brand name for sucralose, which is chemically converted from cane sugar to a no-calorie sweetener. It isn’t recognized as sugar by the body and therefore is not metabolized. Splenda is marketed as a “healthful” and “natural” product since it is derived from sugar. However, its chemical structure is very different from that of sugar, and sucralose is actually a chemical substance. As of 2006, only six human trials had been published on Splenda. The longest trial at that time had lasted only four days, and looked at sucralose in relation to tooth decay, not human tolerance. No studies have ever been done on children or pregnant women.
Sucralose is a synthetic chemical that was originally discovered in a laboratory. In the process of making sucralose, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule. The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is converted to a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of sugar molecule never occurs in nature and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it.
There were a number of side effects noted when Splenda was tested on animals. A few of those side effects included a decrease in red blood cells; enlargement of the colon, liver, brain and kidneys; shrinking of the thymus gland and ovaries; and an increase in cataracts.
People who use Splenda have reported having abdominal pain, gas, bloating, nausea, blurry vision, headaches, shortness of breath, frequency of urination at night, depression, joint pain, heart palpitations, and dizziness.
There is much more information available on the dangers of Splenda. Most of what I’ve written here has come from Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Russell Blaylock, Dr. Don Colbert and Mike Adams. May I challenge you to rethink your use of this sweetener? Begin to read food labels to determine if sucralose is in your diet…and if is, get it OUT!
Lord, thank You for showing us truth and giving us the grace to walk in what You show us.
Link of the Day
Blessings on you as you read your food labels.
“The best way to become a great coach is to be coached by a great coach.” Joseph Umidi
How much time must pass before you recognize that your life has been dramatically altered by someone you met?
The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers. (Psa. 37:21; NLT)
I recently was reflecting on those men who have had a major impact on my life, and to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. It struck me that while I have been incredibly blessed to have met and personally interacted with a very large number of people of significant notoriety, they all pale in comparison to the impact on my life of a small handful of folks who are much less well known. (There’s a significant life lesson in that observation as well.)
It’s one of that small handful that I want to write about today. As most of our readers know, Sharon and I are engaged in a profession that we both find totally fulfilling for this season in our lives. And there’s no question that the vast majority of the skills we have acquired which allow us to pursue this profession of life coaching have been taught to us by Tony Stoltzfus.
We got involved in coaching several years ago without really understanding what it was all about. We were invited to be part of a small group that would be the first to utilize the curriculum of a start-up Christian-based coach-training organization. Tony was one of the three founding principals of that organization, and the primary author of the curriculum. The material was so new that many times Tony was writing it only a week or two ahead of those of us being trained. (One of the other three principals of that organization deserves special recognition as well and will be the topic of Friday’s Daily Gram.)
There’s been a lot of water flow over the dam since then, and Tony is no longer part of that original organization, but has continued to become a greater and greater voice in raising up lifestyle coaches who coach from a Christian world-view. Tony has gone on to write what most many believe to be the best book in the field (Leadership Coaching), and has produced a plethora of CD and DVD programs to further help those wanting to learn to coach.
Tony is one of those rare, unselfish individuals who is driven to give all the skills and techniques he develops away to help others be even more effective. He continues to be a major encourager and cheerleader to Sharon and I as we develop and refine our coaching practice. Meeting Tony a little over seven years ago is one of those divine encounters that we so often dream about. Words are inadequate to express our gratitude, but all we can do is publicly say, “Thank you, Tony! We are incredibly blessed to call you our friend.”
Lord, Sharon and I are so grateful to You for directing our path to cross with Tony’s, and that he was so willing to pour himself into our lives as well as the lives of so many others. We pray that You would bless him and his family this day in a supernatural way. Encourage him and grant him favor as he continues to shape the course of Christian coaching.
Link of the Day
Tony Stoltzfus’ Coach22 web site
Blessings on you as you reach out and touch someone’s life this week in a significant way.
“Get accustomed to the natural sweetness of whole foods. Natural, unprocessed foods are biologically sweet, and once you train your taste buds to enjoy the natural sweetness of the various foods nature provides…you’ll find it’s pleasurable to eat.” Dr. Janet Starr Hull
What would my diet look like of I cut out artificial sweeteners and white refined sugar?
So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. (Luke 24:42; NKJ)
You might be muttering that “sugar is bad and contributes to numerous diseases, aspartame is poison and is killing my brain cells, and now Sharon tells me that Splenda isn’t so splendid! So, what am I supposed to use if I want something sweet?”
Raw honey and pure maple syrup can be used as alternative sweeteners to sugar. There are some nutritionists who believe that even those sweeteners should not be used. I do believe that a steady diet of them can create its own set of problems such as a craving for more sweets and increased blood sugar levels. But I still believe they can have a place in a healthy eating plan. Raw honey is honey that has not been heated over 117 degrees and it’s loaded with good enzymes and other nutrients found in pollens. Pure maple syrup is the concentrated sap of large deciduous trees and is rich in trace minerals.
There are a couple of other natural sweeteners that one can use. Sucanat is dehydrated cane juice. It’s also rich in minerals. It’s light to medium brown in color and is granulated similar to brown sugar. (Brown sugar, by the way is nothing but white sugar with caramel coloring, inexpensive molasses, and other dyes added to it.)
Another acceptable sweetener is Stevia which is made from a South American herb. It comes in a powdered form (in packets) or a liquid. It’s very concentrated and a little bit goes a long way. It can be used to sweeten herbal tea, salad dressings, smoothies, and even whipped cream.
Another less known sweetener is Xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms. Xylitol is nearly as sweet as sucrose and is a white crystalline powder.
All of these sweeteners can be found in health food stores or in the health food sections of the regular grocery stores.
Father we continue to thank You for the wealth of healthy food that You have provided for us. May we seek You for the best food choices for our families and for our own bodies.
Links of the Day
Blessings on you as you choose the best sweeteners.
“Simply reading about coaching will not make you a coach.” Tony Stoltzfus
Think about something you’ve learned and have not yet implemented into your life. Why not and what will it take to get you to do that?
For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). (Acts 4:36a; NLT)
In my last Wednesday’s Daily Gram, I wrote about one of those individuals who make up that small handful of folks who have had a major impact on our lives. I specifically referred to one of the principals of a start-up Christian-based coach-training organization, i.e., the individual responsible for writing most of the curriculum. However, I cannot overlook the primary vision holder of that organization, and the one, without whom, it would never have gotten off the ground in the first place.
Today, I would like to tell you about yet another friend and mentor, Dr. Joseph Umidi. Joseph is the one who had the vision to launch a coaching movement that would impact the Christian world and who, toward that goal, assembled the initial team that included Tony Stoltzfus.
I first met Dr. Umidi as one of my professors at Regent University. I had him for a number of classes and was always impressed by his heart to incorporate practical ministry techniques into a highly academic seminary program. After graduation, our paths crossed a couple of years later when he joined the ministerial staff of a large church that Sharon and I were blessed to be serving. It was in that setting that Joseph invited us to join him in his living room to hear him unfold this vision regarding Christian-based lifestyle coaching. That’s when we signed on.
Since that auspicious beginning, that coach training organization (formerly known as Transformational Leadership Coaching and now Lifeforming Leadership Coaching) has spread the coaching message and coach training literally around the word. A couple days ago, I was thanking Tony for all that he has taught Sharon and I about coaching, but today I would be remiss to not thank Joseph for inviting us to be a part of his vision, wherein we met Tony. Without Joseph, none of this would have happened. If you understand the “lead domino” principle, Joseph was literally the lead domino in our being where we are today.
Most recently, Joseph paved the way for Regent University to invite me to teach his coaching course as an adjunct professor. But that’s the next chapter that has yet to fully unfold.
Isn’t it exciting how God supernaturally networks people together?
Lord, we both thank You for Joseph and the great vision You gave him to bring Christian Coaching to the world-wide church. We pray for favor for him as he continues his travels and networking to advance that vision yet further. Grant him the grace to not be taken off course by the naysayers that all men who carry great visions encounter.
Link of the Day
LifeForming Leadership Coaching
Blessings on you this day and every day as you remain open to the life-changing effect of a divine encounter.
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” Mother Theresa
How do you respond to all the PC attacks that are so in the news this time of year?
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14; NKJ)
I found the following on a blog as “A Letter From Jesus,” author unknown. I found the message to be right on. If you agree, may it minister to you as it did to me. If you don’t agree, try to love me anyway.
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I wasn’t actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival (although I do appreciate being remembered anytime).
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that, let Me go on.
If it bothers you that the town you live in doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that, there wouldn’t be a need for such a scene on the town square because there would be so many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about people calling the tree a Holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. I made all the trees. You can remember Me any time you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish. (I actually spoke of that one in a teaching explaining who I am in relation to you, and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15:1-8.)
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth, here is My wish list. Choose something from it.
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid, and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing your President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family? Then follow up. (It will be nice to hear from you again.)
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive them.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile. It could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hotline: they talk with people like that every day.
7. Instead of nit-picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas,” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary – especially one who takes My love and good news to those who have never heard My name. You may already know someone like that.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them (and I suspect you don’t) buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Marines, Salvation Army or some other charity and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of Mine.
Happy Winter Holidays,
P. S. Don’t forget – I am God, and can take care of Myself. You don’t have to protect or defend me. Just love Me, mind your own business, and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest.
Lord, forgive us for those times when we fall into the trap of thinking that the way to advance Your Kingdom is through standing up for our rights. Thank you for using authors like this to remind us that the only way to truly advance the Kingdom is by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Link of the Day
Origins of the Christmas Holiday
Blessings on you as you smile and greet someone you don’t know today.
“Using agave nectar…[is] easier on your body’s glycemic load-causing less of a shock to your blood sugar. Eating a diet that is conscious of utilizing low-glycemic foods has been shown to be extremely effective in preventing and eliminating type two diabetes.” McAuliflower
What would it take to move something from an inconvenience to a responsibility?
The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Proverbs 16:21; NAS)
After writing about various sweeteners last week, I received some information from another “food researcher” friend saying that Xylitol has been known to be poisonous to dogs. Since we don’t have a dog, I wasn’t aware of that. Click here to learn more. (http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=press_082106) My friend also wrote that there have been studies done showing that Xylitol can cause discomfort to the human digestive tract. So, thank you Michele, for your insight. This sweetener remains controversial, as I’ve read and heard both good and bad information from trusted, reliable sources.
Another sweetener that I didn’t mention last week is agave nectar. Agave nectar is a sweetener produced in Mexico from several species of agave plants including agave tequilana, also called Blue Agave or Tequila Agave. Agave nectar is actually sweeter than honey. It’s “honey-colored” but actually thinner in consistency than honey.
As a sweetener, agave nectar is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than most, if not all, other natural sweeteners on the market. The glycemic index of agave nectar is 14 making it an ideal sweetener for diabetics. I’ve used agave nectar in our smoothies, salad dressings, and in herbal tea.
When substituting agave nectar for sugar in recipes, it’s very similar to substituting honey in a recipe. For agave nectar, use 1/3 cup agave for every 1 cup of sugar. Decrease amount of liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup and decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees. Agave nectar can be found in health food stores.
Another less known sweetener is called trehalose. Trehalose is a disaccharide (two sugar) molecule composed of two smaller glucose molecules linked together that occurs naturally in insects, plants, fungi, and bacteria. It is a white crystalline powder and has been tested to produce lower insulin and blood glucose responses than glucose and is about 45% as sweet as table sugar. Trehalose has therapeutic benefits in many neurologic disorders such as Huntington’s chorea, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimers. Click here for my favorite source for this sweetner. (http://www.endowmentmed.org/content/view/685/65/)
Lord, bless our readers with the determination to make the best food choices for themselves and their families.
Link of the Day
Blessings on you as you search for ways to be “sweet” to those you love.
“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.” B. C. Forbes
How do you react when you see people develop their ability to do what seems impossible?
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matt. 19:26; NLT)
It never ceases to amaze me regarding the ability of the human being to overcome adversity. I don’t know whether I’m just tuned in to such stories or what (see the 10/17 Daily Gram), but they seem to be coming my way fairly regularly now. And I never get tired of sharing them. Down with “victim mentality!”
The following story was emailed to me by a friend who got it from an unnamed source. Please read the story first and then click on the link at the bottom and enjoy!
When I was in China last month, I saw a Chinese modern dance competition on TV. One couple won one of the top prizes. The lady has one arm and the guy has one leg. They performed gracefully and beautifully.
The lady, in her 30’s, was a dancer and was trained as one since she was a little girl. Later she got into some kind of accident and lost her entire left arm. She was depressed for a few years. It seemed that someone asked her to coach a children’s dancing group. From that point on, she realized she could not forget dancing. She still loved to dance. She wanted to dance again. So she started to do some of her old routines. But by her losing an arm, she also lost her balance. It took a while before she could even making simple turns and spins without falling. Eventually she got it.
Then she heard about some guy in his 20’s who had lost a leg in an accident. This guy also fell into the usual denial, depression, and anger type of emotional roller coaster. She looked him up (apparently he was from a different Province) and persuaded him to dance with her. He had never danced. And to dance with one leg? Are you joking with me? No way. But she didn’t give up. He reluctantly agreed. “I have nothing else to do anyway.” She started to teach him dancing 101. The two broke up a few times because the guy had no concept of using muscle to control his body, and a few other basic things about dancing. When she became frustrated and lost patience with him, he would walk out.
Eventually they came back together and started training. They hired a choreographer to design routines for them. She would fly high (held by him) with both arms (a sleeve for an arm) flying in the air. He could bend horizontally supported by one leg and she leaning on him, etc. They danced beautifully and they legitimately beat others in the competition.
I would like to share with you this most magnificent and touching performance I have ever seen! It is a living proof that strong spirit can conquer any physical limitations!
Lord, You have graced us with such incredible resilience. Unfortunately, it’s almost always easier just to give up and play “victim.” Poor me! Forgive us for not being grateful and using that God-given power to give You the glory.
Link of the Day
Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei
Blessings on you as you overcome some of your challenges this week.
“It is better to build strong children than try to repair adults.” Rev. George H. Malkmus
What changes are you willing to make for the health of your children?
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. (Psalm128:3; NKJ)
This article was sent to me by another friend who lives a healthy lifestyle. I’m extracting some of the most important tips to get your children on a healthier road:
1. Replace all sugar cereals with whole grain cereals. Do not buy the sugar-laden cereals. Make a bowl of oatmeal for your children. Sweeten it with a little raw honey. Or give them a yummy fruit salad. Chop up an apple, banana, some berries (frozen is fine) and sprinkle on some chopped nuts.
2. Get rid of all “white flour” products in your house. White flour is sugar’s close cousin. It is completely deficient of nutrients. Replace white flour breads with whole wheat and better yet, get sprouted whole grain bread which has no flour. Sprouted whole grain toast with some butter or nut butter is another quick meal to make in the morning.
3. Stop buying sodas, pop, and other beverages that are a waste of money. Soda does not hydrate the body and in fact, it dehydrates the body. The only drink that will hydrate the body is water. If your children want a sweet drink, make them some FRESH juice. Invest in a juicer and start making some REAL juice for your children. Wean them off the sodas and stop buying them.
4. If your children like peanut butter, try other nut butters and buy it fresh ground or the kind that does not have added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Almond butter, cashew butter, and other nuts butters are healthier and your children will like them.
5. Get rid of all snack foods that contain hydrogenated oils. That means that you won’t be buying ANY boxed foods anymore because it is difficult to find boxed foods without some kind of hydrogenated oils. Stop using margarine and shortening. Replace it with real butter and organic coconut oil in baking. Keep in mind that the habits your children learn now stay with them for a lifetime. Remember that the next time you feel like giving into them when they whine and complain about having to eat another “healthy” meal. You know what is best for them and it is your responsibility to encourage them to make whole food and healthy choices. Don’t give in and give them junk just to shut them up.”
Very well said!
Lord, thank You for our children. May You give us the grace to nourish them correctly and raise them responsibly.
Link of the Day
Raising Healthy Children — God’s Way
Blessings on you as you seek Him to be the best parent you can be.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. (Psa. 103:3; NLT)
Wellness! What’s all this fuss about wellness? What is wellness anyway? If I’m not sick, I’m well, right? What’s the big deal?
Great questions. Wellness is quite a broad term, and unfortunately, most people probably have never really experienced wellness in their lifetime-or if they have, it was so long ago that they’ve long since forgotten what it feels like to be well. And no, just being “not sick” does not mean you’re well.
World-renowned economist, Paul Zane Pilzer, writes in The New Wellness Revolution (Second Edition), “Modern medicine tells them [us] to accept headaches, stomach distress, body pain, fatigue, arthritis, and thousands of other common [emphasis mine] ailments as inevitable symptoms that afflict an aging population.”
Wellness is a pretty far-reaching term. Wellness includes issues such as:
mental clarity, focus, alertness, and memory
consistent energy, endurance, and stamina
overall sense of well-being
positive mental outlook, i.e., better attitude
body weight/shape/lean-to-fat ratio
active libido without performance limitations
good sleep, awakening refreshed
flexibility, agility, freedom from joint/muscle pain
problem free digestion and regular elimination
unrestricted breathing, greater endurance, and rapid recovery
To further help in your understanding of wellness, the link today is a simple assessment that will allow you to quantify your state of wellness as of the present moment. Simply read each statement, and using the scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is very poor and 5 is excellent, honestly rate your sense of well being.
Won’t it be interesting to see how “well” you really are? Be encouraged-no matter where you score with this instrument, there is a clear path for improvement-and often quite rapid improvement. For more about that, give either one of us a call at (757) 482-4490.
Remember, lifestyle, rather than age, is the key determining factor to wellness.
Lord, we thank You for the call on our lives and fully recognize that we will never be able to fulfill that purpose if we’re not feeling well or performing up to the level of the gifts and talents You provided. Grant us the wisdom to recognize that among those gifts is the gift of good health and vitality, and then grant us the grace to make wellness a priority in our life.
Link of the Day
Blessings on you as you take steps to improve your level of wellness over the holidays.