Friday, 27 September 2013

Protecting the prostate of the Jamaican man

Cut out intake of excessive alcohol and fatty foods
Cut out intake of excessive alcohol and fatty foods

It is a well-known fact that prostate cancer is the number-one cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican men. I wish the cure could be found because many have lost loved ones and many more of our men are ailing from this dreaded disease.

There is no scientific evidence that any particular food or nutrient can cure or prevent prostate cancer. Most researchers and health professionals worldwide have agreed that choosing a healthy lifestyle, which includes making healthy food choices, will lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.

The following lifestyle habits practised in our Jamaican culture may be the cause for our men being at such high risk of developing prostate cancer:
  1. Consumption of high-fat foods such as fried chicken, escoveitched fish, oxtail, fried dumpling/plantain/ breadfruit/fritters, ackee and salt fish/mackerel /corned pork, bread and butter, and patty.
  2. Eating small amounts of fruits and vegetables, despite the availability all year round.
  3. Eating small amounts of peas, beans and nuts. Most only eat less than a cup of peas per week in 'Sunday rice and peas' and stew peas or peas soup. Most will have nuts when they consume peanut porridge or punch, which is usually loaded with sugar.
  4. High intake of alcoholic beverages.
  5. Inadequate physical activity or exercise, thus causing weight gain. Research has shown that eating a high-fat diet, especially lots of animal fat, increases the risk of prostate cancer. Low intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and peas can also contribute to our men developing this disease. The more fat that is on the body can be harmful also.
So what could our men start doing to protect the prostate glands? Make healthy food choices and change lifestyle.

  1. Remove skin and visible fat from chicken, beef, oxtail, pig's tail.
  2. Consume low-fat or non-fat milk.
  3. Eat more fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna packed in water.
  4. Bake, roast, steam, grill or stew instead of frying. Do not add butter, oil or margarine when preparing meals because animal meats naturally have fat between the fibres of the meat. Do not grease baking tray when baking or roasting meats.
  5. Use vegetable - or plant-based oil when frying and remove food from hot oil and place on paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove excess oil before eating.
  6. Skim fat from soups and stews and throw it away.
  7. Limit the amount of fatty foods eaten such as bread and butter, patty, fried foods, donuts, etc.
  8. Eat more fruits and vegetables because of the fibre, vitamins and other nutrients. Eat between five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. One serving of fruit is half cup or four ounces juice or one medium-size fruit. One serving of vegetable is half cup cooked without additional fat or one cup raw. Eat fruits and vegetables with different colours because of the other nutrients/substances such as lycopene in cooked tomatoes that have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer development. Vitamins A, C and E (antioxidants) in fruits and vegetables prevent the damage of cells that may lead to cancer. The fibre in fruits and vegetables causes one to feel full, reduces the amount of food eaten, and helps to promote weight loss or weight maintenance.
  9. Increase the intake of legumes - peas, beans, nuts and seeds. Peas and beans are low in fat, high in fibre and have a substance called isoflavones. Legumes that are high in isoflavones include red peas, chick peas, peanuts and soybeans and its products such as soymilk and tofu.
  10. Consume fewer than two drinks of alcohol per day. One drink is eight ounces of beer or one ounce of distilled rum or four ounces of wine.
  11. Exercise for at least three days per week for 30 minutes to maintain healthy weight or to lose weight. A man with a healthy body has eight to 24 per cent body fat.

Men, protect your prostate by eating a variety of foods from all Caribbean food groups with a reduction in fat, especially animal fat; drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts and seeds, and increase your activity level.

Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

What is in your child's lunch kit?

The children are gone back to school, and parents have spent their last penny on uniforms, books, school fees and bags. Parents, have you thought about what you are putting in the lunch and snack bags for them to eat?

Feeding a child between the ages of three and 12 can be a real challenge, not to mention the teenagers who are undergoing peer pressure at school. Some children will accept food in lunch kit from parents but then at school will either swap the item(s) with a friend, sell the item or dispose of it in the garbage. When our child gets home and the bag is checked, we parents feel so elated that the snack was not left in the bag and believe it was consumed by our child.

Children need healthy meals and snacks for:
  1. Physical growth
  2. Development of strong bones and teeth
  3. Building strong immune system to prevent illnesses
  4. Prevent anaemia (weak blood)
  5. Prevent constipation
  6. To prevent or delay the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease
  7. The common nutritional problems in children include:
  8. Overweight and obesity
  9. Anaemia
  10. Dental caries (rotten teeth)
  11. Constipation
  12. Obesity
  13. Childhood obesity may develop due to:
  14. Introduction of food from family pot too early - before six months of age.
  15. Overfeeding from birth
  16. Consuming too much high-fat foods such as sausages, corned beef, ice cream, fried foods, margarine and butter.
  17. Consuming too much foods that are high in sugar such as cookies, biscuits, bag juice/fruit drinks, candies/sweeties and sodas.
  18. Consuming foods that are high in carbohydrates such as chips, crackers, biscuits and breads.
  19. Consuming too little fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts and water
  20. Not enough exercise or physical activity.

  1. Provide fresh, whole fruits and vegetables instead of chips, sweet biscuits/cookies, cupcakes.
  2. Provide water instead of juices, soda, bag juice/ fruit flavoured drinks.
  3. Ensure that breakfast is eaten before children leave for school.
  4. Encourage physical activity.
  5. Anaemia
  6. Iron deficiency anaemia may be as a result of the child:
  7. Not eating enough iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, liver, dried peas and beans, callaloo, pok choi and egg yolk.
  8. Consuming milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt with a meal. The calcium in these foods prevent the absorption of iron in plant foods such as dried peas and beans and callaloo (non-heme iron).
  9. Not consuming vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, lemonade, West Indian cherry juice, tomatoes with meals. Vitamin C helps to pull iron into the blood (absorption).
  10. Recommendations
  11. Serve iron-rich foods along with Vitamin C-rich foods.
  12. Provide iron-fortified cereals.
  13. Dental Caries
  14. Dental caries (rotten teeth) may be as a result of:
  15. Eating sticky, high-sugar foods such as candies/sweeties, biscuits/cookies.
  16. Drinking high-sugar liquids such as soda, bag/box drinks.
  17. Continuous snacking throughout the day.
  18. Not brushing teeth/rinsing mouth after meals or snacks.
  19. Recommendations
  20. Eat more fresh, whole fruits and vegetables, unsweetened beverages and water instead of sugary snacks.
  21. Choose snacks that have a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat such as milk, cheese/peanut butter and crackers, yoghurt. Protein and fat protect the tooth enamel from decaying.
  22. Rinse mouth after eating.
  23. Brush teeth at least two times per day.
  24. Here are some ideas for our children's lunch kits:
  25. Unsweetened crackers with cheese or peanut butter
  26. Fruit (fresh, whole)
  27. Vegetables (carrot sticks, tomato, broccoli with salad dressing or cheese sauce)
  28. Nuts - peanuts, almonds, cashew, pistachios. Children under five should not be given nuts - may cause choking
  29. Popcorn (lightly salted or sweetened)
  30. Dry cereal with dried fruits.
  31. Milk (flavoured or plain)
  32. Dried fruits - raisins, prunes, cranberries
  33. Cupcakes or muffins with no icing, frosting or cream fillings.
  34. Water (plain or flavoured)

Let us protect or improve the health of our children by controlling what is put in the lunch kit and sent to school or church!

Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

Are you a supplement junkie?

How many over-the-counter supplements do you take every day? Are you one of those with a medicine cabinet full of various types of dietary supplements, each day popping up to 10 pills of different supplements and drinking all sorts of 'health' juices, thinking you're keeping 'healthy'?

The problem is, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Consuming more than the recommended daily intake (RDI) of any vitamin or mineral can be detrimental to your health.

Today, persons are becoming more health conscious, lead busy lives and don't understand how to make healthy food choices and, therefore, find themselves depending on nutrition or dietary supplements for energy and nutrients that they could get from eating local and basic foods.

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a supplement is a product intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following:
  • A vitamin
  • A mineral
  • A herb or another botanical
  • An amino acid
A dietary substance to supplement the diet, which can be an extract or a combination of the first four ingredients in the list.

When persons are asked why they use supplements, the answers vary from being too busy to eat right, or claiming that the foods now don't have enough vitamins and minerals available due to the high usage of fertilisers and pesticides or that their body is not able to use the vitamins from the food they are eating. Why do you take supplements?

Eating a balanced diet with foods from all six Caribbean food groups is of more benefit than popping a whole bunch of supplements or drinking various liquid from unidentified sources.

Have you ever eaten a meal and then feel sluggish, tired and fatigued? Have you ever wondered why? This could be as a result of you not consuming sufficient amounts of vitamins in the diet because you're not having balanced meals, so instead of buying a vitamin supplement:

  1. Ensure that your meals have sufficient amounts of vitamins in the form of fresh fruits or vegetables.
  2. An adult should consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A serving of fruit is four ounces, whether whole or as an unsweetened juice. A serving of vegetable is four ounces cooked or one cup raw.
  3. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins that release the energy from the carbohydrates, fat and protein from our meals. So with fruits and vegetables consumed with the meals, we will get the energy necessary to carry on after we have eaten.


There is an increased awareness of heart disease being the number one killer in Jamaica today and as such persons are purchasing mega-doses of omega-3 and omega-6 supplements. It is not necessary to use these supplements if one is consuming a diet rich in peas, beans, vegetable oil, nuts and fish, especially sardines, mackerel and tuna.

Omega-3 is found in canola and soybean oils and margarine, nuts and fish such as tuna, sardines and mackerel. The RDI is 1.1-1.6 grams and three-ounce sardines provide 1.4grams or two tablespoons of flaxseed or 14 walnuts.

Overconsumption of omega 3 may cause uncontrollable bleeding.

Omega-6 is found in corn, soybean and sunflower oils or meats. The RDI is 12-17 grams. According to experts, it is rare that persons are deficient in omega-3 or six fatty acids.


Calcium and iron are the most supplemented minerals. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth and iron for strong blood.

Calcium is found in milk, cheese, small bones in sardines and mackerel and dark green leafy vegetables. The RDI is 1000-1200mg and one cup cow's milk or three-ounce sardines provide about 300mg.

Iron is found in meat, dried peas and beans and dark green leafy vegetables. RDI is 18mg and three-ounce beef liver provides 5mg or one cup beans provide about 4mg.

Calcium is not absorbed well when eaten with dried peas and beans and wheat bran due to the phytic acid content.

For iron to be absorbed, eat meal with a vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable or juice.

Care must be taken when consuming certain nutrients to ensure that it is absorbed and used by the body. It may be that the diet is not lacking in certain nutrients but there was a poor mix of nutrients. Hence no need for supplementation.

Excessive amounts of vitamins B and C are passed out of the body with the kidneys, making extra urine. Vitamins A, D, E and K are not passed out of the body, but stored in the liver and can become toxic and cause illnesses.


  1. Eat a variety of foods from all six Caribbean food groups to ensure a balance in all nutrients and there will be no need for supplementation.
  2. Consume three main meals per day with adequate fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.
  3. When in doubt or before you buy supplements, see a registered dietitian or registered nutritionist for a nutrition assessment and an individualised meal plan.
  4. If not convinced about not taking a supplement, take a low dose on days when the diet is inadequate in vitamins and minerals.
  5. If you feel you need a supplement, taking a high-quality multi-vitamin that has the proper blend of nutrients and right amount of RDI should be adequate for whatever deficiencies you feel you may have.
  6. Do not use supplements that provide more than 200 per cent of RDI.
  7. When water-soluble vitamins are taken in large amounts, as is the case with most supplements, the kidneys have to work extra to get rid of excess vitamins through the urine (expensive urine). Save your liver and kidneys from overworking by reducing the amount of supplements taken!

Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

Friday, 13 September 2013

My “Illiterate” Neighbour

Tips on Fatherhood

I’m not certain whether or not living in a typical Jamaican housing scheme has more advantages than disadvantages. I suppose that depends on the angle from which you look at any specific situation. Here’s one situation that I find particularly useful though. It concerns one of my neighbours who is said to be a functional illiterate. He lives with his family, and is a father. Now because of the close proximity of our houses I tend to overhear some of his conversation. I don’t usually pay attention to these conversations… except when he’s talking with his son who is under 5 years old.

“Hello,” he’d say to his young son in a most friendly and playful tone, “I love you.” Other times he’d pitch in this line, “Daddy loves…” and he’d call his son’s name. Just this morning I heard him saying “Good morning (and he called his son’s name).”

“Wow,” I’d say every time I hear him talk like that, “what if every dad spoke, especially to their sons, in that manner?” And they say he’s illiterate! (I don’t really believe them).

Jeff Sass, a father and seasoned entertainment and technology executive, shares thoughts on Dadomatic, a blog/forum where dads share thoughts and ideas about parenting. He shares on the topic,
“5 Tips On Fatherhood Your Dad Never Told You.”

1. Listen. Despite our dominant position of authority as “the parent,” it is NOT always about us. Stop and LISTEN to your kids once in a while. I often catch myself taking over the conversation, so I am trying to make a more conscious attempt to let THEM do the talking for a change. Regardless of the subject matter, if it is important enough for them to want to tell you, it is important enough for us to be interested. Whether they are telling you about the frog they stepped on, their favorite flavor of chewing gum or describing an elaborate classroom math equation you will never understand, listen and be INTERESTED. Our kids crave and value our interest in their lives and activities far more than we realize.

2. Share. Share your adult life with your kids. Times are tough and we are all working really hard to make ends meet and provide for our families. If you work a lot and spend a lot of time on your job, share it with your kids. Tell them what you are doing at work and why. Tell them what you like about your job and what you don’t. Bring your work to kids day is a good idea.

3. Be Ridiculous. You can NEVER embarrass yourself infront of your kids. Anything silly you do will be enjoyed and remembered by your kids. The sillier the better. Inhibitions are not an excuse. If you cower at the thought of Karaoke, you should be proud to sing off key for your kids(and do so often). If you are a polished fashionable type you should be daring and dress in mismatched rags once in a while to make your kids smile. Shopping with your kids? Startle them and talk in complete gibberish to the cashier (and wink knowingly to your kids) as the cashier looks at you as a crazy person and calls for their manager (then, laugh with your kids and of course pay for the goods). These are some of the moments your kids will remember forever, so as long as nobody can get hurt, if you have a secret urge to be “wild and crazy,” go for it!

4. Teach. Anything and everything. Anything you do, if your kids are present, it is an opportunity to teach them. If you are fixing a light-switch (or engaged in any other household chore) if they come by don’t send them away as if they are a bother because “daddy is busy.” Instead, take a moment and show them what you are doing. An annoying chore like fixing a switch can turn into a quick and fun lesson on electricity.

5. Say “I LOVE YOU” – a lot! These three words are invincible. They are tougher than Teflon or Titanium, stronger than Stainless Steel and more durable than a Diamond. The words “I LOVE YOU” can never be worn down or overused. Plus, they are as satisfying and rewarding to say as to hear, and the more you say it, the more you will hear it. The “L” word is awesome, but don’t just say it, MEAN IT!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Time Management Tips Parents can cultivate in their School Age Children

Time Management Tips
Parents can cultivate in their School Age Children

1. Set up a colour coded weekly schedule. Children can be taught how to manage time wisely. Ensure that the schedule includes class periods, meals, sports or physical activity (ies), social activities, personal hygiene, travel time, study time, student organizations, telephone and TV time, and most importantly spiritual time and their leisure time. Parents who assist their children in setting up weekly schedules and encourage them to be deliberate and consistent in keeping track of how they use their waking hours will reap amazing results. Remember the time to sleep is very important. Students need sleep for learning.

2. Eradicate procrastination, which is often described as “the thief of time.” Teach your children to be disciplined. It will matter if you are just a few minutes late and if you fail to use the present or today, which is certain, rather than putting things off for tomorrow. The best way to teach them this tip to model it.

3. Just say NO. Encourage them to say no and detach. Saying no to things that interrupt those that are priority is always necessary. Remind your children that true friends are persons who understand and respect their principles. But beware; friends are not the only avenues that rob children of precious time. Telephone, TV, Texting, Surfing the Internet, emailing, chat rooms and social websites (e.g. Facebook), quickly consumes time. Parents work with your children through your example in controlling and limiting time spent on these distractions.

4. Plan for success. “If you fail to plan, you by default plan to fail.” Planning for success is easy when the bigger picture– school term or semester is considered. Plan and prepare for exams way ahead of time to avoid cramming at the last minute. Ensure that assignments are carefully understood so that they can be completed in advance of the due dates. Planning for success could also include reviewing immediately after class, timely completion of homework to reinforce concepts, learning proper study skills and also asking the right individuals for help or seeking clarification when needed.

5. Learn time management gems. The Bible offers a lot of these. For example, Proverbs 6:9-11 (NIV) says: "9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man."

6. Reward! Reward! Reward! When children are able to maintain their schedules and be disciplined with their time, encourage them with affirmations, small tokens or with “time,” which could include engaging in an appropriate activity that they enjoy.

Submitted by: Janice A. Lewis Stewart, MSc
Assistant Director
Counseling & Psychological Services Center
Northern Caribbean University

Flattery, Fear, and Fall


I have often heard the expression as a boy growing up, "Self-praise is no recommendation." It is a statement that would come in response to ones self-proclaimed declaration of possessing a superior quality, or having worthiness of acceptance or to receive respect. I don't hear it much these days though - although so many of us are certainly not short on egocentricity (an accepted norm). We certainly encourage our youth to write attractive resumes using powerful words that grab the attention and pique the prospective employer's interest in you.

I wonder, how similarly might the Psalmist have been inspired to utter these same words in observing how we do things these days, "For he flatters himself in his own eyes," (verse 2)? His son, Solomon would tell you, "There's nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9);" men are today what they ever were it seems - full of pride and arrogance.

It should be noted that it is not possible to possess these negative qualities without them being an affront to God. Jesus says in Matt 25: 40, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." The way we view and relate to others constitute our view and relationship with God.


Sometimes we try to kid ourselves that we can still be deemed servants of God while we abuse our fellowmen. Note however, overtness and extremism are not prerequisites of wickedness. Sometimes it lies under the cover of subtle deviations from God's will (we call it hypocrisy). About the wicked David says, "There is no fear of God before his eyes," (verse 1). Fear/respect for God means we do everything He says, period.


The chapter closes with the certain declaration, "There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise."  Solomon chimes in again with this thought, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Prov 16: 18

This reading is based on Psalm 36 in sequence with the Revived by His Word initiative.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 36, and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Drive Driver, Drive!

You know, getting to work on time is not just a good idea, it is a legal requirement; a Christian thing to do.
It is Monday morning, and following a weekend of rich spiritual renewal, I’m determined to get to work on time. I’m travelling from out of parish and I’m using the public transportation system. And did I mention that I’m slightly behind schedule?

No sooner than I get to the taxi park, and I am ushered into a taxi that dishearteningly has three rows of seats. That usually means a longer time for it to be filled and ready to move. But the driver is relentless in getting a load and makes good ground. My heart lightens a bit; I may yet make it to work on time.

Well, he’s filled, and we’re off! And boy, are we going fast; showing little regard for the speed limit. I don’t mind, because that will certainly help me get to work on time. He overtakes where there are no broken lines. And even where the traffic ahead is snaking along like a freight train, he drives as if we’re on a four lane highway. My heart pulsates with both fear and the glorious anticipation of getting to my destination on time.
As we near our destination, he pulls over along the road to let his first passenger off; and in the process, an accident occurs behind us. Now while he was obviously not legally responsible, I believe he shares some of the moral blame for the accident. You see, where he stopped in proximity to where a fellow taxi operator had stopped to also let off a passenger, made it difficult for the other driver to have safely moved off. But as is seemingly the nature of most taxi operators, the other driver showed little patience in waiting until it was safe to move off and so ended up in the side of a private commuter’s car. The Police, who were already on the road, were quick on the scene.

As we drive off I sighed with thankful relief that it wasn’t my driver who was in an accident – too bad for those other persons who will likely be late for work; I am gladly on my way again.

But as the story turned out, I arrived late anyway – even after violating my Christian sensibilities. This meant that I had to stay behind as many minutes after 5:00 p.m. as I had arrived after 8:00 a.m., or shorten my lunch period. But then again, getting to work late isn’t the agreement I made (that must change; I must get there at the time agreed on).


As I processed in my mind while in transit, how I’d write about this experience, it bothered me a bit… (okay more than a bit) that the driver and I fellowship with the same congregation weekly. And here I was, silently cheering him along as he broke the law and defied ethics. Of all people, we should know better.


  1. I will remain determined to arrive at work on time. This may only mean starting my days earlier.
  2. I will be more mindful of moral implications of my activities in meeting my targets at work, and in life.
  3. I will endeavour to always keep the bigger picture in mind, appreciating that as a Christian, God expects me to always abide by the rules, and that I must be sensitive to those around me (co-workers, stakeholders and customers). My Christian principles must define my work ethic.
  4. And while I’m at work, having pledged and getting paid to execute specific activities, I must take the initiative to be organized and productive. I will set and achieve my daily targets that include getting to work on time.

I will inform my team members and co-workers, where necessary, of my work schedule so that they will not be unduly put out by my work routine.
I am determined to be a model worker.

Leadership and the Paranoia Syndrome

"O Lord, do not be far from me." Ps. 35: 22

In Psalm 35 David the king speaks.  Anyone in leadership can easily relate to this psalm.  How do you really know if those you work with are with you?  Sometimes it is clear when others are against you and that makes it easy to handle that situation.  Other times however, there are great uncertainties, especially when persons speak in ambiguous language.  Much of your fear and suspicion is based on a hunch.  In other words, we become paranoid.

Leadership often pulls one into an involuntary political pickle that produces "enemies" for a number of reasons:
1.  The persons you lead have a clear preference for another individual
2.  The persons you lead are accustomed to relating to you on a different level and find it difficult to make the switch
3.  Individuals are wary of impending changes that may throw them into disequilibrium
4.  Then sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong, but because you hear how they would have spoken of others in leadership, (or just whom they've had to deal with), you know you're not perfect, so you feel it's reasonable to assume that they speak about you too.  Yes... paranoia!

But how do you treat with this situation?  Do you pray this prayer literally, or do you simply pray that if there are any plots for your demise that they be compromised?  Do you also pray that you don't become your own "greatest enemy?"  Here are some recommendations for handling such situations:

1.  Do not be defensive and be responding to what you "see" in individuals, just be yourself; be a Christian.
2.  Love and pray with (where possible) and for your team members
3.  Do your job without fear or favour, but be reasonable
4.  As a good steward, maintain proper records; that will work as your defense at times
5.  Always follow the protocols - this makes for greater safety
6.  Remember, it's really not about you and your position; it's about God and His agenda; let Him lead
7.   So then, "Except the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman waketh but in vain," (Ps. 127: 1) - do your best, and trust God to do the rest.  And don't be paranoid.

This reading is based on Psalm 35, in sequence with the Revived by His Word initiative.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 35 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Easy Teacher; Easy A

"Are you crazy; don't you see who is teaching that course?  Select this session.  Been there, done that; easy teacher, easy A."

Sounds familiar?  How many of us would... did respond, "Oh no, unlike you, I actually want to learn something."  I'd understand if you'll want to plead the 5th at this point.  As for me... ah well, another story.

The first half of Psalm 34: 19 says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."  It really does appear that selecting to follow the Christian path is tantamount to selecting a course that is rigged with severe testing and exercises.  Jesus is unpretentious in John 16:33 where He says, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

My wife, a teacher of Mathematics, will tell you that a strategy she uses in getting her students to perform is to get them past their fears of Mathematics.  Once that happens, the rest is easy.

Jesus, in the above passage, knows about that strategy too, for in His opening statement He speaks of peace of mind; the allaying of fear.  In fact, further on He alludes to fun times, "be of good cheer," even amidst the clear challenges that lie ahead.

We are the students, the world is the classroom, Christ is the teacher.  The problems we must often solve are taken from the devil's workbook.  But get this, the instruction book is the Bible.

While the first half of Psalm 34:19 may, on the surface, be a bit daunting, the latter half speaks of the peace and good cheer Jesus speaks of in John 16:33, it says, "But the Lord delivers him out of them all."  If this isn't reason enough to be of good cheer, nothing is.

Dear Father in Heaven, so we won't always find it a walk in the park, enlisting for the programme of Salvation, for there will be afflictions and tribulations.  But what a great reassurance it is to know that Jesus is our Teacher, and Guide.  He overcame, and will guide each of us to overcome as well.  O what blessed assurance we have!  We pledge not to go for the easy A with the devil, but to tough it out with Christ, knowing that in the end it'll be worth it all.  Thank you for this great hope, in Jesus' name, amen.

This reading is based on Psalm 34.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 34 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Monday, 9 September 2013

"He Called Me By My First Name"

"He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." Ps. 33: 15

One of the three presidents under whose tenure I have either attended school or served to date recounted an experience he had while visiting the General Conference (GC) office. He had an appointment to see the president of the GC. He recalled waiting well beyond the time that he was to see the World Church leader; well beyond the limit of his usual patience. He only stayed because he understood the protocol at work, as well as the nature of the work as an administrator. But in telling us the story, as he shared it during a general assembly, he was not griping; he just wanted to share with us how amazingly instantaneously his "rage" (my word) was quelled, when the GC president came out and called him by his first name. His voice and manner was calm, personable and apologetic. And to top it off, they were to have lunch together (not in the original plan).

Our Creator God, who operates in the currency of eternity, appears often lethargic and delayed to us who operate on a time budget. This is arguably why so many of us prefer to rely on people and things (verses 16 and 17) that we can manipulate to our suit. The Psalmist here reminds us that God has veto powers, "He brings the counsel of the nations to naught," (verse 10); He's sovereign over all... bar none. What's more, He fashions our "hearts individually; He considers all (our) works," (verse 15).

Why not sit and patiently wait on Him; He really does have you/me in mind you know. And like the GC president would have decided beforehand to do lunch with my president, I hear Jesus in Revelation 3: 20 saying, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." We're not lost in the vast numbers that God has to deal with. He knows us individually and desires personal communion with us. Isaiah captures it beautifully, "But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine." Isa 43: 1.

Do enjoy this beautiful song, "Now I belong to Jesus,"

This reading is based on Psalm 33.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 33 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

I'm Sorry!!!

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. Whose sin is covered." Ps. 32: 1

Sleepless Nights

Have you ever wanted to make peace with someone; to say that you are sorry? You trying calling, but he/she is not answering; you text, and still no response. You try the e-mail route and that makes not difference. You then go back over the messages you sent; maybe they were not properly written and have only worked to dig you into a deeper hole. So you start rewriting them. Never has a night seemed so eternally long. You are now fully resolved, whatever it takes, you are going to see that individual tomorrow and you are going to make amends. 

You know, there are few things that can rob you of sleep as can a guilty conscience. What a tremendously hair-raising relief it is when someone you've wronged (for which you are sorry) says, "Hey, I understand, no hard feelings."

Suicidal Thoughts

A guilty conscience can even drive one to commit suicide. Remember Judas ("Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And he... went and hanged himself." Matt. 27 4, 5)?

God: More Willing to Forgive Than we are to Repent

If we understand anything about God, we'd know that with Him there's no need for anxiety about securing His forgiveness - least of all entertaining suicidal thoughts.

In God's eyes we don't stand condemned because we're sinners, but because we refuse to accept His gracious offer of forgiveness and reconciliation; we refuse to repent. In John 3: 19 He expresses this concept this way, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

Peter could have followed the course of Judas, but he knew Jesus a lot better, and what he saw in the eyes of Jesus after he denied Him the third time was love, pity, and forgiveness. It is generally felt that that was the decisive moment of change for Peter. See Matt. 26: 75.


Our Father in Heaven, with grateful, repentant hearts we acknowledge Your willingness to forgive us of all our sins. What a joy to know that You are indeed more willing to forgive us than we are to repent. Thank you. Thank you that even if we have sleepless nights, it's not because we don't trust you, but it's because we don't trust ourselves, and we just want to make sure that we are fully anchored in You. To that end, give us a few sleepless nights, if you must - only, be our Instructor, our Teacher, and our Guide. And we promise to always sing Your praises, now and always. We ask it all in Jesus' name, amen.

This reading is based on Psalm 32.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 32 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Broken, But....

"I am like a broken vessel." Psalm 31: 12

What must have been Christ's darkest hour, when in brokenness, total surrender and resignation He declared, "Into thy hand I commend my spirit," turned out to be His greatest moment of victory - for it was through His death that the ultimate sacrifice was made for our salvation.

Jesus isn't only our sacrifice, but is also a Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9: 6). The writer of Hebrews tells us that "we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," (Heb 4: 15). Earlier in the book of Hebrews we read, "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted," (2: 18).

Similarly, it is often in the state of our brokenness that we are most capable of ministering effectively to others (even when we are broken as a result of our own waywardness). The vicissitudes of David's troubles - both self-inflicted (Bathsheba), and those caused by his enemies (Saul) - have dictated the many Psalms that mean so much to so many of us today.

Sometimes it is beyond words to articulate special messages of hope and solidarity. The communication of how well we understand the dark path one is traveling is sometimes conveyed in just a look, a gently firm squeeze, a hug, or even a groan. And in one simple act, many times without even a single word, one knows that he/she is not alone.

Father, God, You have been a constant stay, our never failing refuge. Thank you for the struggles we faced, and that You have brought us through. Help us to extend Your grace to others by being there for them when they face their crucibles. Help us never to forget that You will never leave, nor forsake us, and to be contented to commit our all to You.  We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.

This reading is based on Psalm 31.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 31 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Croc’s Mouth; an Object Lesson of God’s

Crocodiles are among the most fearsome creatures on earth.  Based on a research conducted by National Geographic crocodiles have the most powerful bites ever recorded.  This places these creatures on top of an elite group of predators that includes sharks, eagles, hyenas, lions and tigers, and various breeds of dogs.

An incredible phenomenon of these creatures of extreme brute force is how they, on one hand, can use their mouths to perform the most brutal onslaught on their prey.  Yet on the other hand these very mouths are used as instruments of tenderness and care when handling their young.  It is a picture to die for to see a seemingly gleeful young croc’s head protruding through the sharp teeth of its mother’s mouth as it is transported to a place of relative safety (for better it is to see a young croc’s head than a human’s, which would usually mean the human’s a meal).

I find the extreme capabilities of an adult croc’s mouth to be an excellent object lesson of God’s mouth, or more specifically, His voice.  Psalm 29: 4, 5 say, “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.  The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, yes the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.”  There was a time recorded when the awful manifestation of this voice drove fear in the Israelites, and they begged Moses to face God in their behalf: “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die,” (Ex 20: 19).  

This voice though, which spoke the world into existence, “For He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast,” (Psalm 33: 9) is sometimes used with a gentleness that makes it almost imperceptible.  1Kings 19: 11, 12 describe God’s interaction with Elijah as not through typical power sources as the wind, or an earthquake, or even through a fire.  Instead, God spoke in a “still small voice.” to guide us to a place of safety in God’s will.  Isaiah, as if in describing this voice articulates it this way, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isa. 30: 21.

Father in Heaven, thank You for Your patient care, guidance and protection of our lives.  Although You are such a powerful and awesome God, whose voice controls the forces of nature, and in whose presence we’d faint and die, yet You are contented to also dwell within our hearts and to be that still small voice that controls us.  Thank you for this awesome condescension and our desire right now is to ensure that our hearts are indeed inhabitable by You.  So clean us and fill us with Your Holy Spirit we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.

This reading is based on Psalm 29.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 29 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

For a brief video about crocodiles see link: