The Last Best Hope

Finishing Strong!

I completed the Spa 5K Saturday in a record time. It was my personal best, and I was thrilled to finish strong. Notice I had two bicycle attendants and the privilege of my good friend, who is the current president of the local running club, to accompany me on the last leg of the 3.2 mile route.

Admittedly, my personal best was last of all who entered, but I still beat everyone who never entered the race. I also did better than those who didn’t train to walk this distance. We do this by going out for 15 minutes the first week, and adding 5 to 10 minutes extra in each of the weeks to follow. No one does a 5K right off the batt unless a bear is chasing them!

This is the third year I’ve completed the race, and I’ve learned several good tips. First, carry my inhaler so my asthma doesn’t bother me. If I can breathe better, I can walk at a steady pace. Second, carry half a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread to eat at the turn. This keeps my blood sugar up so I have energy for the home stretch. Third, hydrate. I carry water because I take medication that causes mouth dryness. If I feel good, I can walk well. My time was 1:07.19.34, with a pace of 21:43/M. I finished 9th in my age group and 291st of 291 women.

Finally, I don’t have to beat anyone else on the course. I only have to finish the race. Each runner or walker has his or her own individual time to beat, their own personal challenge. Of course, someone will cross the line with the best time in each age group, but each person has a personal race within the race. If we want to find good health, we must get up and get moving! It won’t come to our door via Amazon Prime or Dominos delivery service.

Finding ways to challenge our lethargy is tough, for once we begin to sit, inertia takes over. I’ve been there and worn a hole in the cushions of my couch. Sometimes I’ve had to set the kitchen timer to thirty minutes to force me to get up and turn it off. Putting on happy music, setting just one task and giving myself a coffee reward for completing it has helped me get over some of my rougher days. The worst days I had to admit I was depressed and seek treatment.

Depression is a real illness, one often found along side diabetes and heart disease. These are diseases of inflammation and depression seems to be their fellow traveler. It can be treated. We don’t have to live with the struggle of depression. Ordinary life has its own troubles, but we can live with hope and love. We don’t have to win the trophy, we merely need to do our best.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise,

nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful;

but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

After all, we have a higher purpose in life, for we’re here to be a witness to others. In Japan, the Ginko trees are living fossils, since they aren’t kin to any other tree still alive. When the atom bombs fell, six Ginko trees survived even though all the buildings around them were destroyed. When the trees began to bud, they were named “trees of hope.”

Hiroshima Ginko Trees

Even if we aren’t “much to look at” we can still be an inspiration to others. After all, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). You can be the last best hope for someone today, maybe even for your own self. You are worthy. When you’re stronger, you can be a hope for someone else.

Ginko in the Autumn

THE CHANGE HAPPENS OVERNIGHT

Late in November, on a single night

Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees

That stand along the walk drop all their leaves

In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind

But as though to time alone: the golden and green

Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday

Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?

What in those wooden motives so decided

To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,

Rebellion or surrender? and if this

Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?

What use to learn the lessons taught by time.

If a star at any time may tell us: Now.

“The Consent” by Howard Nemerov

Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov.

Reprinted by permission of Margaret  Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53817/the-consent

More about Ginko Trees—https://e360.yale.edu/features/peter_crane_history_of_ginkgo_earths_oldest_tree

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SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

Coffee Makes Me Smarter

How do I know coffee makes me smarter? Is there science behind this statement, or is this just a perception I have? Scientists giving people 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee—found they help the brain identify words more quickly and precisely. I call that “smarter.” Our IQs aren’t higher, but we can use what we have better.

Does it take two cups, or two sips? Perhaps this depends upon a person’s sleep debt. According to the PLOS Journal, “Sixty-six healthy participants age 24.3 years (19–32 years) were randomly assigned to either a caffeine group (n = 33, 9 males) or a placebo control group (n = 33, 12 males).” Do I know these young men were sleep deprived, or is it my best guess? Men average 5 hours, 45 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 9 minute, according to a 2017 study on American sleep habits.

Excessive fatigue during the day and taking too long to fall asleep were the most common reported issues. The recommended amount of sleep is 7 hours. An interesting side note, every 30 minutes of daily exercise adds about 14 minutes of sleep time. I have the blessing of inheriting my daddy’s ability to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. “Go all day, sleep all night.”

As I was saying, I worked all evening long to fix printer at home. Reason(s)?

1. Power surge last week might have knocked out delicate “air connections” of the software.

2. My iPad crashed and I had to restore it. No telling what happened there! I was fortunate to have backed up just a few days prior.

3. Printer would print from computer & phone, but the iPad would not recognize the printer. I went to bed. Arkansas had lost their baseball game anyway.

4. When all else fails, a good night’s sleep might solve any problem. It will be there anyway and I can try again.

5. Morning and coffee bring new insights. If I was stuck trying to print from email, why not print from another program on the iPad?

6. Print from Word. Spits out a page!

7. Print from Notes. Spits out another page!

8. Now go to email and try again. BINGO! We have a winner! Chicken Dinner!

“Tomorrow is another day,” my mother always told me. “Things will look different when you wake up.” When I was young, I didn’t have her accumulated experiences to understand this wisdom, but the dawn always comes after the dark of night. We can either stay up worrying and exhaust ourselves, or get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to tackle life again in the morning.

I tend to let God handle the world and its troubles while I sleep. In the morning, I thank God for another day to love and serve, and take care of the troubles that come my way. I don’t go looking for trouble, since like most of us, we have enough trouble in our own lives to begin with! And trouble will find us along the way also.

If I could give you one word of suggestion, most problems in our lives would go away if we all slowed down. We attempt to pack 30 hours of activity into a 24 hour day, and then wonder why we’re so tired. Sleep deprivation is the answer, with stress as a corollary result.

The University of Washington Health Sciences concluded chronic sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, which means people get sick more often when they don’t get enough sleep.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center says, “What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health.”

Get 7 or more hours of sleep per night, and simplify your life.

Live long and Prosper.

Love, Cornie

Brain and Coffee Study https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/in-experiments-caffeine-accelerates-the-brains-verbal-processing-113759145/#I44msTiHHXl4DTum.99

PLOS JOURNAL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0048487

https://www.sleepphones.com/Sleep-Statistics-The-State-of-Sleep-in-America

Simple Breakfast

I overslept by a lot! I’ll be goin from one silence to another, having missed worship, breakfast and morning lecture. On a spiritual retreat, as on the spiritual journey, god always provides food. I’m drinking coffee, eating peanut free peanut butter, and an apple.

God knows what we need and God provides. Most of us go on doing for others rather than taking care of our own body’s needs. This self sacrificing is counter productive, however, for then we’re both unable to care for others and we destroy our own bodies which are made in the image of God. This overwork leads to burnout or physical complaints. Either one of these can shorten the years of effective ministry of either a clergy or a lay person.

Taking time off, surrendering our need to be in charge or to be in control, is one of the blessings of the Academy. You participate as much or as little as you need to. The hope is each person disconnects from the busyness of life at home and connects instead into the stillness of the life of God. This way when we return, we have an ingrained memory of the path to this still place in the midst of whatever storm may arise.

Jesus Stills the Storm

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.

And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”

Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

~~ Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)

Eagle Brand Coffee

Drinking Eagle Brand Coffee this morning. I wondered who to root for last night for the big football game. My head said Patriots, but my heart said Eagles. Tom Brady, my head said, is the best quarterback around. What do you know about this backup from the Eagles?

My heart answered, but you love the underdogs, the unappreciated, and the undervalued. Why not go with your heart, since it’s the seat of your feelings, and you trust those more than the logic of your mind. Anyway, it’s just a game, and it’ll be interesting any way it turns out.

Some of my friends gathered to “watch the game,” but as in any party, some are there for the food, some for the commercials, some for the fellowship, and a die hard few for the actual game. The evening is for all, and we don’t all have to do the same thing. We can wander in and out, tasting and experiencing it all, or we can stick with one thing.

We don’t have to be all alike, since we celebrate freedom in America. We don’t even have to think alike or root for the same teams. We forget how blessed we are when we let petty people and politics divide us. If we sought instead to find what unites us, we’d recover the common ground.

After all, those who seek to divide us do this for their best interests, and not for ours. If we separate into easily defined subgroups, they can market to us, they can count us, and they can court us. Perhaps if we began to look for the humanity of the others in our midst and walk a mile in their shoes, we would no longer think of them as “others ” but as brothers and sisters.

Working Like Ben-Hur

Good Monday Morning! Time for another cup of coffee—let’s take on this week like Ben-Hur overcame all all odds! We can do this!

I’m to be in many places this week so I’ve only got two days to do my “real callings” or what the employed world calls “work.”

We can work, but not get remuneration. This is the case for many homemakers. People who lose their spouses suddenly discover how expensive it is to hire someone to provide those domestic duties. I sold a pile of life insurance on non working spouses just by giving the facts.

Those who fix up the homes in which they live, or do their own yard work, also aren’t paid, but they aren’t spending money to hire others either. I’ve always hired the yard work, and done my housework, since I figure I can do one or the other, but not both. I’d rather not sweat, and I’m willing to pay someone to do that for me!

I’ve always considered my creative endeavors my real work, and whatever I did to put food on my table and a roof over my head was just a means to an end. Likewise in my ministry days, my real work was to preach, teach, love, and touch the Body of Christ wherever I found it. The other tasks of the elder appointed to the charge or church were secondary. I often had to set priorities to do the work of Christ first and the work of the church second.

On a Monday morning, think about Ben-Hur: how did he survive his captivity? It was longer than a Monday for sure. He trusted God. We can do this too. Get your priorities straight.

Prayer for Lifelong Protection and Help

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;

incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge,

a strong fortress, to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

~~Psalms 71:1-3

Coffee before Purpose

Welcome to the Antepenultimate Day of the Week , AKA Thursday!!

Thursday is the Third to last day of the week. Friday is the penultimate day, or the next to last day of the week. For some of my Kitchen friends, Friday is the Ultimate or Last day of your work week. Saturday, however, is the ultimate day of the week on the calendar.

Most people today plan their calendars around the work or school weeks, rather than around the calendar, which is set on the religious week. In the past, people only had Sundays for a rest day.

For those of us who keep busy but are happily retired, we find keeping our old daily schedules helps us stay regular in our sleep and exercise disciplines. We do our errands, volunteer activities, and other excitement in the same hours as our younger working friends, children, and family members.

If you’re working hard, or hardly ever working, you can easily lose track of the day’s of the week. A wild Monday can seem like three days long, so by 2 pm you’re screaming at your coworkers, “Is it Wednesday yet?” My daddy claimed he got both the morning and afternoon newspapers delivered to the home so he’d be sure to know what day it was. I’ve known folks to get their days and nights mixed up if they don’t have a reason to get up in the morning.

Always have a purpose in life worth getting out of bed in the morning, even if it’s just to make the best cup of coffee for the one person who needs it most–YOU! After that, you can deal with the other great purposes in life: cleaning up your little corner of the world, loving yourself and others more fully, and sharing your blessings with those who have less.

But first…COFFEE!