Friday, 31 May 2013

Inspiration from a Pagan King

I'm impressed with particular details of Atarxerxes' decree as recorded in Ezra 7.  Elements of it could just as easily have come from a prophet or a modern day leader such as our President, Pastor Ted Wilson... even Jesus Himself.

1. Thesis on Stewardship
"Now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem. And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God." Verses 17 & 18.

What an inspired lecture in stewardship. Even after you give God His due (the tithe and offering today, as typified in this passage by the bulls, rams, and lambs etc.), be careful to spend "the rest... according to the will of... God."

2. A Mandate to Teach God's Word
"Set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them." Verse 25.

I hear an echo of the spirit and essence of this passage in Matthew 28: 19, 20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

The aspect of judgement on those who do not conform to God's laws is somehow captured in Matt. 24: 14, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."  In the end those who submit to Christ will be saved; those who don't will be damned. All, as a prerequisite to God executing judgement, will have been taught His law/the Gospel.

God's Doing
Of note, as spoken by Ezra himself, this was not king Artaxerxes' doing, it was God's. And may I testify that He's still working in the affairs of men and in the lives of individuals - not in a pushy way, but with the steadfastness of a loving parent who wants the best for her/his children.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hypertension: A Silent Killer

Hypertension, commonly called high blood pressure or ‘pressure’, continues to be a serious condition especially among black people. It is considered to be one of the most treatable diseases that can result in complications, disability and death. Despite the availability of screening programmes and treatment options, this ‘silent killer’ is linked to lack of knowledge. Prevention of this disease can be achieved by the adoption of a healthier lifestyle starting in childhood and continuing into adult life. Blood pressure (BP) is defined as the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels as it circulates, whereas hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure is consistently above normal range over a period of time.

Research findings indicate that the rate of hypertension varies between nine and 20%, and increases with age with women being more affected (16%) than men (11%). Hypertension is considered to be among the chronic diseases which contribute to approximately 60% of the 56.5 million reported deaths in the world; and the prevalence of the disease is higher among black people compared to other races. This disease can cause renal failure, heart ailments and stroke.

The cause of hypertension is unknown, but there are a number of contributing factors: excess salt, obesity, insulin resistance, genetics, low birth weight, excess alcohol consumption, chronic stress and lack of exercise. With aging, the arteries’ inability to expand to allow smooth blood flow, can contribute to elevated blood pressure.
It has been noted that most people with mild to moderate hypertension may not experience any symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, the person may complain of fatigue, dizziness, throbbing headache, confusion, difficulty seeing, nose bleed and even coma. These signs and symptoms may not occur until the BP is dangerously high and considered life threatening. Persons who experience these signs and symptoms should visit a clinic or hospital. High blood pressure should be treated promptly. Unfortunately, because high BP develops slowly and silently resulting in delayed diagnosis, damage to organs may occur.

Before treatment, a thorough medical examination of the signs and symptoms and relevant laboratory works should be done. The approach for treating high BP is two-fold: lifestyle and medical intervention. In order for the approaches to be effective, the person must understand the importance of regular BP checks.

The lifestyle changes include: lowering salt intake, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, maintain an ideal weight, stop smoking, participate in regular exercise, reduce stress and eliminate alcohol consumption. With the use of medication, it is important that the BP is lowered gradually. An appropriate medication will be prescribed and the person is expected to follow the instructions. The goal of health is for persons to live long while experiencing good health.

Article by Heather F. Fletcher RN, CNS, MSN
Assistant Professor, Nursing, Northern Caribbean University

Diabetes Mellitus and the Diet

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition in which the body does not process foods consumed for use as energy. Most foods consumed are changed into sugar or glucose for our bodies to get energy for activities such as breathing, walking, talking etc. The pancreas manufactures the hormone insulin to help get glucose out of the blood and into the cells of our bodies. In the case of diabetes, the pancreas is either not making enough insulin or the insulin that is made is not being used well due to the amount of fat surrounding  the cells. This causes sugar in the form of glucose to build up in the blood. Normal blood glucose is 70-120mmol/L or 3.9-6.6mg/dl. 

Diabetes Classifications:
• Type I
• Type II
• Gestational and other specific types
• Pre- Diabetes 
The risk factors for the development of  diabetes include: pre-diabetes, obesity, lack of, or insufficient amount of physical activity and increasing age. The management goals of Diabetes Mellitus are to:
• Achieve normal Blood Glucose values between 70-120mmol/L(3.9-6.6mg/dl) 
• Achieve and maintain a Desirable Body Weight or Healthy Body Weight with
a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than or equal to 24.9 kg/m2. 
• Achieve and maintain a waist circumference
of 30 inches for females and 35 inches for males. 
• Achieve and maintain normal blood
lipid levels. 
• Slow down or prevent the development of atherosclerosis (Heart Disease),
nephropathy (kidney disease), neuropathy (nerve damage in lower extremities
and retinopathy (eye disease). 

There is no special diet for a person with Diabetes. It is the amount of food that is consumed, how the food is prepared, and when it is consumed. The recommendation is to consume a diet that is rich in fibre -unrefined foods such as yam, potato, whole grain products peas, beans, whole fresh fruits, vegetables raw and lightly cooked; low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol from the six Caribbean Food groups. The food groups are Staples (unrefined or complex carbohydrates such as yam, green bananas, plantains, whole grain products etc.), Fruits (whole fresh or  no sugar added juices), Vegetables (raw or lightly cooked), Legumes (peas, beans and nuts), Foods from Animals (milk, cheese, beef, chicken without skin and visible fat) and Fats and Oils (ackee, pear, butter, margarine and cooking oil). 

The general dietary recommendations include eating three meals per day, but when on  insulin, snacks should be included to accommodate the peak in insulin to prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) from occurring. Consideration must be given to individual preference, culture, socio-economics, availability and ability to understand and follow the diet that is prescribed by a registered nutrition professional.  Physical activity or exercise should be done for at least thirty minutes, three to five days per week. This can be broken down into increments of ten minutes, three times per day. 

Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to complications that affect the kidneys, eyes, heart, nerves and feet. Inspect the feet and toes for blisters or unnoticed cuts, check blood glucose level using a glucometer (home blood glucose machine), exercise to prevent excess fat around the abdomen.

BY Marsha N. Woolery, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University 

Peas & Beans- The Facts

Peas, beans and nuts are all a part of God’s original diet for mankind and scientists have proven that these natural produce are healthy and help to prevent or reduce the development of chronic diseases. In the Caribbean, peas, beans and nuts are classified as Legumes in the Food Groups. Examples of peas and beans include: red peas (small and large), chick peas (garbanzo beans), lentils, broad beans, split peas (yellow or green), gungo (pigeon peas), broad beans and Jerusalem (rice peas) and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews and pistachios.

Peas and beans are low in fat and contain no cholesterol - because plants do not have a liver. They are an excellent source of protein and a great meat alternative. Protein aids in human growth and development, making of antibodies, enzymes and hormones. Peas and beans are a good source of folic acid, potassium, iron, magnesium and fibre. Folic acid is an important nutrient for women in childbearing age, to aid in the development of the spinal cord of the unborn foetus in the first six weeks of pregnancy. Potassium is important for heartbeat regulation and iron to prevent anaemia.

Peas and beans are a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre. The outer coat has insoluble fibre and the inner part or flesh has soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps to increase the bulk in the faeces and attracts water to prevent constipation and cleans the intestines of fat and unwanted substances. Insoluble fibre also slows stomach emptying, extends the feeling of fullness so it reduces the risk of obesity. Soluble fibre slows the absorption of glucose and fat and is important in controlling blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.

So why eat peas and beans? They reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke because they are low in fat, cholesterol free and the fibre present traps fat and harmful substances to remove them from the large intestines in the faeces. Blood sugar is reduced because fibre slows the rate of glucose absorption from the intestines to the cells. Peas and beans help to prevent certain types of cancer such as colon cancer.

Eat more peas and beans and less animal foods such as chicken, beef, goat meat and fish every day. Two (2) ounces or ¼ cup of peas or beans is equal in protein and lower in calories than 1 ounce of meat, chicken and fish. Increase the amount of peas and beans in the diet slowly to prevent diarrhoea or abdominal discomfort.
Peas and Beans to your Health!

Article by Marsha N. Woolery, MPH, RD. Freelance Registered Dietitian/ Nutritionist (NutriFit Consultancy) and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University 

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Heart of Worship

"...everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid." Ezra 3: 5, 6.

Keep Things in Perspective

You know, we can become so engrossed in church work that we forget to worship.  So often people who are involved in planning programmes, who work behind the scenes to stage programmes (the technical crew), are so preoccupied with ensuring that things go right, or that they capture everything on camera that they often miss the worship experience. So before we start "working" let us erect an altar; keep things in perspective.

No "Ideal" Conditions Needed

How often have we found ourselves saying, or heard someone saying, "I need to get this thing, or do that thing before I really commit fully to God?" This is a fallacy. In the conversation of Jesus with the woman of Samaria He disclosed to her that worship is not confined to a special place (not that anything is lost by having a special spot dedicated for the purpose of prayer, praise and study - but worship extends beyond those). What He rather told her was that "God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." John 4: 24

Worship - a Heart Experience

Worship then is not so much where you are, the things you have, the people you are with; worship is a heart experience. The true worshipper will join with others in formal worship, but will go it alone (even in a crowd - with due discretion of course); it is sometimes very audible, but it can be very quiet; it is a continuous process, and not a sporadic drift into a mode of piety. Worship is a way of life that does not need the approval of others - be they civil authorities, employers, acquaintances or family members; it's a personal heart connection with the Creator. This is why we would see Abraham erecting altars almost everywhere he went - he took his worship with him.

This reading is based on Ezra 3.  To read and/or listen to Ezra 3 and read other related blogs click here.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Overweight and unhealthy: are they the same?

Marsha N. Woolery, Healthy Eating & Diet
Overweight is defined as a weight that is greater than that which is considered to be normal. But what is normal weight?
Calculation of healthy normal weight is based on one's height and frame size. For females, 100 pounds for the first five feet and five pounds is added for each additional inch. For males, 105 pounds for the first five feet and five pounds for each additional inch.
For small-framed persons, 10 per cent of calculated weight is subtracted, and for the person who is large framed, 10 per cent of calculated weight is added. If the person has a medium frame, the weight remains the same. Hence, the weight ranges for individuals with the same height on the commonly used weight tables (National Health and Nutrition Survey tables). For example, for a five-feet-five-inches female with a large frame, the recommended weight would be 137 and a half. Please note that no consideration is given to age, illness, or genetic makeup.
Body Mass Index (BMI) determines whether an individual is underweight, overweight, obese (level of obesity) or at a healthy weight. BMI looks at the relationship between a person's height and weight. An individual who is five-feet-five-inches tall and weighs 150 pounds is overweight. BMI does not take into consideration age, gender, body composition, illness or genetic makeup.
Human body make-up
The human body is made up of muscle, fat, water and bones. A person whose body has more muscle would have less water and fat, whereas, a person with more fat on the body would have more water and less muscle. This explains why when persons are on a weight-loss programme they tend to lose weight rapidly at first (water loss) and when on certain weight-loss programmes, diuretics (water pills) and/or certain fruits and vegetables are recommended to aid in weight loss through water loss.
Muscle weighs more than fat, therefore a muscular person may weigh more than a person with a lot of body fat with the same height. The BMI of the muscular individual would be higher and interpreted as being overweight or obese. This may be discouraging to persons who are trying to lose weight and, due to exercise, have started to build muscle.
Weight should not be the only determinant of one's physical health and fitness. The amount of fat, where on the body the fat is located and nutritional status should also be considered.
Research has shown that fat that is distributed around the waist increases the risk of developing heart disease - the number one cause of death in Jamaica - type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry of Health Jamaica recommend that waist measurement be no more 35 inches for men and 30 inches for women. This is a discouraging and seemingly unrealistic figure for most persons so I usually recommend that men aim at less than 40 inches and women less than 36, with a BMI as near to 24.9 as possible.
The total amount of body fat can be measured using calipers and bioelectrical impedance analysis. The amount of fat on the body depends on age, gender and physical activity. Women, by nature, have more body fat than men and, as we get older, the body accumulates more fat (old-age fat).
How much body fat is healthy? Body fat should be 10-16 per cent for males, 21-30 per cent for females and 6-20 per cent for athletes.
Tips for a healthy body include:
  • Exercise - have a structured programme that consists of aerobic and anaerobic activities for at least 30 minutes four days per week.
  • Choose foods that are low in fat, less animal products, more peas, beans, fresh whole fruit and vegetables, nuts and water.
  • Get adequate sleep.
To determine a healthy body, use a combination of waist measurement, BMI and skinfold tests or Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) - to determine amount of body fat. To determine overall health, add results from blood-sugar tests, blood-pressure checks and lipid profile.
Being overweight does not mean there is too much fat on the body and, therefore, should not be used to determine one's health or fitness level. Stop using the eyes to discriminate and take a deeper look at what's going on inside the body.
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

A Certain Discontent with the Wonderful

In business the middle man always represents additional expenses. Hence, the aim is always to go directly to the source where you may access the best possible deals.
In the last chapter of 2 Chronicles we see how clearly between Egypt and Babylon God's people lost their sovereignty, but it didn't seem to distress or alarm them. They were complacent.  So instead of seeking God, they defied Him as they danced to the beat of the nations around.
Laodecia in Revelation 3 was similarly beguiled with a false sense security, because they settled for material prosperity, "I am rich and increased with goods."

Are we today not driven by the worldly standards of measuring success by virtue of how far up the organization we climb, how much money we have, the connections we have? A preoccupation with these make requisite sacrifices for the Kingdom an often laughable notion. We must resist the inferior standard of the world in measuring our worth; we need to break free from this control and manipulation. It's not enough that we're advancing in the secular world (making money, having "powerful friends" and connections, outdoing the competition, etc).  Instead, we should seek direct interface with God; seek His approval.
Lord how do we start a revival when to so many of us, nothing seems wrong; life is wonderful? Please put within each of us a certain discontent that will drive us to seek your face, while resisting the control and manipulation of the devil. Amen.

This reading is based on 2 Chronicles 36.  To read and/or listen to this chapter and read other related blogs please click here.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Beautiful Swan/Ugly Duckling: Which One are You?

“Oh Lord, please don’t let it be her.  The day is bad enough as it is, and I sure don’t want to make it any worse.”

Snappy, as she is un-affectionately termed, revelled in her authority as a permanently employed public sector worker.  She was crude, loud, and unsympathetic to workers and patrons alike.  She literally drove terror in everyone she met.  Outside of knowing the technical details of her job she was an absolute misfit.  Her relationship with her superiors was always strained.  Snappy wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but she was miserable.

You see, she never got over the fact that the untimely passing of her father, the only breadwinner in their family, forced her to seek early employment in lieu of pursuing her dream career.  She felt cheated.  Add two children out of wedlock (different fathers) to the mix, Snappy never got around to pursuing her dream – spending more of her time being angry and disappointed; wallowing in self-pity.
Although the dynamics may vary from individual to individual, there are many persons who have just ended up in jobs that make them… miserable!

What do you do if you find that you are in this situation?  Read the story of “The Ugly Duckling,” take the cue, devise a plan, and strive to discover/become who you’re really meant to be.  Why settle to becoming an ugly duckling (a misfit), when you already have the makings of a beautiful swan?  Note, the swan went on a journey of discovery and self-definition.  The swan had to decide to leave the relative safety of its miserable existence in order to find a new and better one.

Remember, a swan is a swan, a duck is a duck; a beautiful swan will always make an ugly duckling.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Is It All About How I’ll End Up?

"All is well that ends well," the old adage goes. What a refreshing end to Manasseh's life; having descended even further than his heathen counterparts! I continue to be impressed with the theme of God's amazing Grace that characterizes all these stories. Indeed where sin abounds Grace doth much more abound. The Hoppers sing this wonderful song, "God's Grace is Greater Than All Our Sin." What a glorious hope of the change that awaits us yet!

But notwithstanding the encouraging end to Manasseh's life there's a very salient lesson to be learned from his experience: We must be careful of those moments of indiscretion that may have an effect on others even after we may have moved on from them. The text says that "Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them."  2 Chronicles 33: 22. Although we may justifiably argue that Manasseh should not only have removed the carved images, but destroy them as well; could their preservation be seen as symbolic of the impression and memory that our sinful indulgences  create in the minds of those who would have been affected by them? Remember this nursery rhyme - "Words, like eggs, should be handled with care, for words once spoken, and eggs once broken we can never repair" -? This is what obtains for some of our blunders. So is all well that ends well? Not entirely; there may be some tragic collateral damage along the way. By God's Grace, let us strive to be faithful.

Pastor Derek Morris, host of Hope Sabbath School and editor of the Ministry Magazine has this take on this issue of Manasseh’s failure to destroy the carved images, “What a lesson about eradicating sin from our midst. It was not enough for Manasseh to throw the idols out of Jerusalem. He should have destroyed them. It's not enough to put your past sinful activities in your garage or storage unit. Someone else might pick them up, like your own children, and be polluted by them. We shouldn't sell or give away things that defile. May God grant us courage to destroy everything that corrupts.”

This reading is based on 2 Chronicles 33.  To read and/or listen to this chapter and read other related blogs, please go here.