Short Stories for Empowering Youth

“Ed’s Tohlet & Other Stories: The Teen’s Guide to Spiritual Growth; By Don Keele, Jr.; Teach Services, Inc. Publishing; 103 pages

Don Keele has spent his career pastoring teens and young adults and helping them engage in church ministry. This book, humorous and challenging even to adults, is a written vehicle for doing so.

Through the power of story, Keele examines areas of strength as well as weakness in himself. We get to know him as he was as a youngster, a teen, and an adult. He tells on himself and it’s an endearing thing to see. Too often, Christians fail to make connections with the unchurched (not to mention with one another) because of a desire to not seem vulnerable.

But the lessons we need to learn, implied in Keele’s parables, come when we admit how much we need our Savior.

In “Smells,” the first story in Ed’s Tohlet, he starts off right. Not only does he indicate how we can be unaware of our spiritual need, he offers the reader a chance to decide to be one with Christ. And isn’t that the starting point for us all?

Keele handles such topics as bullying, Christian service (this is where the ‘tohlet’ comes in), pain, faith in our prayers, accepting God’s “No,” obedience, and more. While directed at a teen audience, this Christ follower found wisdom to follow and even took some notes.

In “Secret Weapon,” Keele describes what it meant to finally be part of an athletic team when he knew he had absolutely no athletic ability. Someone else showed faith in his ability to help. With success, came this realization

“I had only done what Richard had taught me…

Allow (God) to do that work and simply do what He asks you to do.”

At times, Don gets a little off-topic (and sometimes he admits it). Sometimes he seems a might preachy. But his stories really are funny in places. They really do point us to our own experiences with peer pressure, temptation, and a need to belong. They’re not just the needs of teenagers.

God has challenged me in a specific area and take I it seriously. After reading “COPS,” the author’s story about being pulled over and witnessing an arrest, the challenge God extends is even more real. That would the challenge to bear witness of God’s love and goodness to the world. Not just to those whom we celebrate with on the Sabbath and in our Christian huddles.

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

God Calling

reading-the-bibleWhenever I have questions about what it is God is trying to say to me (in any situation), God’s word is where I first turn for answers. However, the quote below from Michael Molinos often comes to mind. These words are simple and clear, like scripture.

They also seem to come from someone who’s believed God. Someone who has experienced His love. A love that is faithful and sweet no matter what the situation is at present.

In all Your Journey as a Believer,
You will have two kinds of Spiritual Experiences.
One is tender, delightful, and loving.
The Other can be quite obscure,
dry, dark and desolate.
God gives us the First one to Gain us;
He gives us the Second to Purify us.

          ~ Michael Molinos, 17th Century Writer

Upstaged by a Donkey

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This picture is for a fellow blogger, The Donkey Whisperer, who trains donkeys and teaches others to train their own donkeys. The photos she posts are incredible and she educates us about donkeys while doing it. For instance, did you know a donkey brays for a variety of reasons and they can sound different depending on the bray’s purpose? Fascinating.

My particular ‘episode’ with a donkey happened when our pastor did a sermon series based on Bible stories which included a donkey. He didn’t talk about donkeys per se. He used the stories to show us how the Bible is relevant to our lives and how to put our faith into action.

Our youth group helped keep this little guy available at the atrium entrance so people could pet him, children could sit on his back, and he could just be an example of God’s endearing creations. The pastor’s wife, Sandy, stood by to take some photos.

I wish I knew the donkey’s name. He was calm and gentle and I went away full of glee at my experience with him.

A Foodie Produce Storage Guide

It won’t be long now and we’ll be on our way to the farmers’ markets to buy fresh produce. That goes for people in my neck of the woods, anyway. I’m from the Midwest USA and, even though it’s still officially winter, we’re having unusually warm weather.

We’re counting the days until the robins come back and the crocuses bloom. Those are signs spring is here and summer isn’t far behind.  farmers-markets-local-produce-benefits

Last year, I became a more frequent visitor to the farmers’ market downtown in My Fair City. My favorite choices for produce in season were apples, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions. I paid a lot of attention to The Cheese People of Grand Rapids too. Regular readers know I must have cheese.

Then there was this family who sold fresh pork. Chops, roasts, bacon, sausage. Imagine: pork with no junk in it. More than once I treated myself to homemade pork sausage for which the man could list the ingredients in one quick breath.

Yeah, buddy.

Today, we have for your perusal a produce storage guide from Real Simple Magazine. (It lists the foods in alphabetical order and you’ll click through from page to page.) I go to their web page sometimes for tips because, hey, they’ve already done the work for me. You’ll find them in the sidebar because they’re Stuff I Read. Knowing how to buy quality fruits and veggies is one thing, but we also need to store them so they’re at their peak when we get around to using them.

I hate rusty lettuce, don’t you?

peppersSomeone told me a good rule of thumb for storing produce from the market, farmers’ market or otherwise. They said if the store doesn’t have it refrigerated, it probably doesn’t need to be refrigerated when you get it home. I’m not so sure about that. I tend to store some things in the fridge because they last longer there. Some things I put in the fridge because I want to delay their ripening.

I learn from people like the folks at Real Simple Magazine or by just doing it and seeing what happens. I hate to waste food, so I’m certainly not averse to taking someone’s advice.

A couple of my friends who keep a garden were generous last summer with kale, banana peppers, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. As an apartment dweller, that’s a windfall I hope for again.

Whether or not you have access to good fresh produce in season right now, you might want to browse Real Simple’s site.

They really do keep things simple. Be a blessing and eat hardy!

 

 

 

 

Acting on Affirmations

next-life-chapter-cropRead this quote all day until you have it memorized. Repeat it to your friends any chance you get. Type “amen” in the comments because you believe it’s true. Print it out and post it on your fridge. Do all those things if you want. But…

I’ve discovered if we don’t first deal with whatever is in the former chapters of our lives and get over what’s hurting us (resentment, regrets, open wounds, and unforgiveness for example), real and meaningful progress in life doesn’t occur.

Affirmations are okay. But an affirmation is only something positive we tell ourselves which doesn’t become real in our lives until we’ve acted on it. Take for example one I found on a list for Christians:

“I see others as God’s gift to me.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I believe this so-called affirmation is true. But if, in my daily walk-about, I don’t treat everyone as the gift I believe they are, my words are hollow.

God’s promises are the same. He offers so much to us that we don’t have to work for. However, even though many of those promises are a faith matter, even the most recognizable work in our lives may be accompanied by His “Now, go.”

Read about a man blind from birth in John 9:1-34. He wasn’t healed simply because Jesus put mud on his eyes. Jesus put the mud there; He did His part. Then Jesus told the man to go wash his eyes in a pool and he’d be healed. When the man acted on Jesus’s instructions, he went home with the gift of eyesight.

A friend of mine used to say, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the worms into their nests.” Quite often, we mustn’t be content to sit and wait for God to simply come through with our need. On the contrary, we’ll discover that there’s work for us to do which coincides with the work He’s already doing for us.

Go ahead and read your “last chapter.” Then ask God how He’d like you to deal with it. I’m guessing that for you, as it was for me, He’s expecting you to do something. Listen with humility to what He’s saying to you.

Then, “Go.”

And be a blessing to someone today.

How Sweet It Is

twain-forgive-violet-quoteSometimes, for me at least, the idea of forgiving someone leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Over the years, with help from God, forgiving others isn’t the drawn-out, dreaded process it used to be. Matter of fact, I forgive fairly quickly now. Wait. Perhaps I should insert “sometimes” in that sentence as well.

One thing I do know is when I’m in a situation where I need to forgive, I find a good starting point is remembering “I’m that person too. If I haven’t done that thing they did or said, I’m guilty of doing or saying things as bad or worse.”

That reminder is the jumping-off point for extending mercy to others. Just as God extended mercy to me. And how sweet that is.

Hope, Anger, and Courage

augustine-on-hopes-daughters

The world is full of trouble. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Jesus knew we’d experience trouble.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33

Jesus doesn’t leave us without hope, however, because in the same breath he says he’s giving us his peace. He says he’s already overcome the world. The Amplified Bible version adds the words “I have deprived it of power to harm you.”

Knowing his peace and the fact that troubles have no power over us doesn’t mean we hide our heads in the sand and not looking at the world’s troubles. That isn’t the message Jesus means to convey. He certainly said a lot about acting to help those in need. To be a good neighbor. Pray for our enemies. Forgive from our hearts.

Jesus got angry. But it wasn’t selfish anger; it was anger that was justified. The things that made him angry needed to be made right because innocent people were suffering. The call to be like Jesus means we follow his lead. Are you measuring your anger about a situation or against a person based on Jesus’s example?

Are you bold like Jesus? Do you take risks to make the world a better place, even if it’s just the little space of world where you live? What is he calling you to be courageous about today?

Pray for the ability to make change and bring justice to a situation as Jesus would. Then, you’re offering hope to the world that is full of trouble.

Thirsty Foodie: 6 Reasons to Drink More Water

Water. I tend to take it for granted even though I use it all the time. I drink it, wash in it, launder clothes in it, clean the dishes in it, fill the fishbowl with it, and feed it to my rabbit.

That can add up to gallons and gallons of water.

When it comes to feeding myself with water, I take it for granted sometimes then too. I really do need to drink more water. How about you? Maybe you’re confused about just how much you’re supposed to drink. There’s a lot of advice out there. And maybe you, like me, don’t drink bottled water. Is that okay? I don’t know about all that.kids-at-fountain

We’re not going to delve into that sort of thing today. I want to talk about why we should be drinking water. It’s not that hard to add water to whatever you’re already eating and the benefits can be seen right away. (It’s not like dieting where you must wait and wait and wait and wait…)

Replenish What’s Already There Our bodies are naturally 60% water. We need to stay hydrated to maintain a level which is healthy to our bodies since water is always flowing out. Science Nerds appreciate this reason because they get to discuss every aspect of the human physiology associated with water-in-water-out. But this is a good old common sense reason too, so relax and drink your water.

Energize Your Muscles Muscles become tired when they don’t have an adequate number of electrolytes flowing through their tissue. If you’re experiencing muscle fatigue, you probably need a few swallows of water. Don’t let the term “electrolytes” fool you into thinking you need special beverages. Water, in this case, can do a fine job of giving your body what it’s thirsty for. A Science Nerd knows how that all works, but I’m not a science nerd, just a foodie who drinks plenty of water every day.

Your Skin Looks Better Drinking plenty of water doesn’t get rid of wrinkles or fine lines if you already have them. But when you’re dehydrated just a tad, your skin appears more dry and wrinkled. Drink water to fill the tissues. Then use a moisturizer of some kind to create a physical barrier to lock in the moisture you just got from a glass of water. It just might be the secret to more ‘glowy’ skin.

Flush Your Kidneys Not to get all scientific on you, but maybe a little science doesn’t hurt. A chemical called ‘blood urea nitrogen’ is the main toxin your body needs relief from. It’s water soluble so if you drink adequate amounts of water, your kidneys are better able to flush the toxins. Ever heard of a kidney stone? Those painful little (or large) nuisances can form for many reasons. But a lack of fluid to flush your system is a common one.

Prevent Pain That may sound like I’m talking ‘cure-all’ for pain. Believe me, I’m not. However, what many people suffer from as far as pain which can be helped with more water consumption is pain in joints and muscles. Think “fluid motion” with the key word being “fluid.” Joint pain and muscle cramps can be minimized when we drink more fluids.elderly-woman-w-water

Control Your Appetite Maybe when you have that feeling in your gut (literally) that you’re hungry, you really aren’t. Maybe you’re thirsty and your body will respond with a simple 8 ounces of water. See there? Your tummy isn’t growling anymore.

If you’d like to start giving your body what’s it’s thirsty for, here are a few tips.

Have a beverage with each meal or snack.

Choose beverages that meet your needs. You may need to limit sugar or sodium in bottled drinks.

Keep a bottle of water with you always. It’s easy to keep something in the car when you’re commuting, shopping, or running errands.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Really. Their water content is high. We get about 20% of our fluid intake from fruits and vegetables. As a side note, it’s healthier to eat the fruit than to drink the juice from a bottle or from frozen concentrate. In addition to getting the fluid, you get the fiber; both in natural form.

Staying aware of both health needs and common sense, choose drinks you enjoy. You’re likely to drink more. If you’ve always thought plain water was boring, start slowly with it. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime and see how refreshing it can be.

Finally, if you have a chronic health condition, consult your doctor before changing the amount of or types of fluid you drink.

Eat, oops, Drink Hearty!

He Keeps on Tickin’

I haven’t the slightest interest in running. If you see me run, you better run too, because there’s probably a bear chasing me. There are people who run because they enjoy it. I have friends who run races like Ed Whitlock does. That would be the Ed in the story featured here from The New York Times.happy-news-graphic

But none of my friends who run are as advanced in years as Ed.

The good news story this time is about a fellow from Canada who runs marathons. His ability to continue running with the speed and stamina he has is a marvel even to scientists who study such things. And according to this story, Ed’s been under scrutiny.

So click away and enjoy reading about Ed, who doesn’t do much in the way of prepping for his races except, what else? He runs.

Ed Whitlock is the Marathon Man

 

She’s Discovering a New Sooz

For a fellow blogger, Discovering Sooz ,  who writes an eclectic assortment of posts.

I think I might get brave like Sooz and post Before & After photos of myself one day. When I’ve reached goal weight.

Thanks for your honesty and for your fun and thought-provoking posts. This one’s for you.

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