Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Servant Leadership

Volume 3 No. 148 June 20, 2013

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Feeding The Congregation - Following His Master

Rev. Fr. Binoy Alexander, vicar of St. Ephraim Knanaya Church, Detroit (Achen also conducts services at St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church, Detroit), believes in service. Last Sunday, after preaching about Jesus feeding 5000 plus with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, achen took on himself to climb a mulberry tree, picking fruits so the congregation can savor the fruit. Is there any better way to emulate Jesus Christ? Achen and kochamma (Sheeja) with their 7-year old daughter enjoy being of service to achen's sheep.

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In the Kingdom of God, service and humility are coveted more than anything else. As members of the body of Christ, our job is to be of service to fellow human beings. As humans, we see the outward appearance, but God looks at our hearts. David tells us that what is precious to God is a contrite heart. We reward achievements that everybody notices, but God rewards those things that nobody knows about. ...

Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 23)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermons for This Sunday (June 23)

We have expanded our sermon offerings to include the sermons based on the Saturday Evening Gospel reading in addition to the regular Sunday Gospel reading.

Sermons for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Inspiration for Today: Habits are the Stairway to a Richer Life

Little actions taken over time create profound lifetime habits that determine our destiny. Through our simple daily actions we ourselves create the patterns that become automatic through repetition in our lives. These automatic habits eventually determine our personality traits. Thought habits and mental attitudes go hand in glove with these actions. ...

Featured: True Power, Even in The Church, Is in Serving Others - Pope Francis

"For a Christian, true progress lies in humbling ourselves as Jesus did," according to Pope Francis. "True power is in service. There is no room for power struggles within the Church." ...

A Servant's Heart: A Trialogue Sermon

The Bible readings for today have to do with one of the most fundamental and important teachings of Jesus…on being a servant. And Jesus wants to transform our hearts from selfish hearts to servant hearts! ...

The Way Up With God Is Down!

God made the most radical decision -- the Divine plan is that the followers of Jesus Christ, with all their weaknesses, will build the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not go to the rich or powerful or famous to gather troops for his movement. He chose the "rag-tag" crew on the Capernaum road and still chooses people like you and me to build the church and carry God's good news to a fractured world. ..

Greatness, Humility and Servanthood

Without humility we won't serve, or we will serve for the wrong reasons. It seems almost impossible to overstate how pervasive are the effects of humility in our lives. ...

The Three Tests of a Servant Leader

A servant leader can frequently be found working behind the scenes, taking the work no one else wished to tackle, seeing that others get the credit, and rejoicing when someone else succeeds and prospers. ...

Family Special: Having and Raising Good Kids

There is no magic formula for having kids, let alone having them turn out well. Many couples remain childless after years of agonizing prayer. And even miracle children, bathed in spiritual significance, carry with them no guarantees of piety....

Health: Raising Smarter Kids: Why Nutrition Matters

"Have you ever stopped to think about how children actually grow? Their developing brains, organs, and nervous systems are being built cell by cell during infancy and early childhood. Specifically, babies' brains grow faster from birth to three years than at any other time of life - and that growth is fueled by the food they eat!" ...

Recipe: Easy Summer Salad

This recipe keeps coming to mind when the first fresh corn of the season becomes available. Remembering how much I loved this recipe before, I got excited and forgot to cook the corn at all. Turns out the fresh young kernels were crunchy sweet and perfect raw. ...

Inspirational: The One-Minute Graduation Speech

Speakers are to graduations what turkeys are to Thanksgiving, except people are much more interested in a turkey on a platter than a turkey behind a podium. What we need is a good one-minute graduation speech. ...

Humor: A.A.A.D.D. - Know The Symptoms!

Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder. This is how it manifests. ...

About Malankara World

One of the intriguing facts about Christianity is that Jesus picked 12 ordinary men as his disciples and entrusted them with nurturing and growing the church. These ordinary fishermen and tax collectors had no prior leadership skills or theology knowledge. They had the same human limitations as the rest of us. They suddenly found themselves facing a big challenge they were not quite prepared for.

So, this week, we learn that while Jesus was talking about his plan for the redemption of the fallen mankind, viz., his passion and subsequent resurrection, the disciples were quarrelling among themselves to decide who was the greatest among them. They were jockeying for coveted spots in the coming kingdom. Isn't that like us?

If Jesus was disgusted with this childish behavior he didn't show it. But he made it clear to them that the Kingdom of God is going to be very different from what they think it is. There the rules of engagements are reversed from what we think of the worldly kingdoms especially with respect to serving and to be served.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." - Mark 10:45

In the Kingdom of God, service, obedience and humility are coveted more than anything else. As members of the body of Christ, our job is to be of service to fellow human beings. As humans, we look at the outward appearance, but God looks at our hearts. David tells us that what is precious to God is a contrite heart. We reward achievements that everybody notices, but God rewards those things that nobody knows about. God rewards motives and intentions behind actions. God rewards generosity that is never publicly announced. (Jesus told us that the left hand should not know what the right hand does.) God prizes obedience and sacrifice, the hallmarks of a real servant.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Archdiocese of New York) recently explained that the ancient title of Pope is "servant of the servants of God." As Jesus commanded, the pope is there to serve, and not to be served. This also applies to all Christians from Patriarch to laity. Cardinal Dolan continued:

"A Pope will hardly be a 'boss' who tells others what to do, but a shepherd who invites us to walk with him on a journey to eternal life in company with Jesus and His Church."

Billy Graham used to say that "the aim of life is to change our lives to conform to God's will, not to change God's will to match ours." We let God re-create us in His image; we do not attempt to create God in our image! This means we serve and not be served.

You do not need special qualifications or join special organizations to serve. There are many opportunities available to people of all ages and gender. I came across the following story of a 93 year old Christian still going full steam serving God in Burma:

Full of Sap and Spring at Age 93

by Stephen Altrogge

They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…(Psalm 92:14)

My grandfather, J.J. Altrogge, is 93 years old. He is still bearing loads of fruit of Jesus. He conducts Bible study at a retirement homes regularly. For the last 15 years or so he has also painted birthday cards for every member of our church. That currently puts him at around 5,000 birthday cards. Lately he's been bringing a down-and-out friend of his to church to hear the gospel. He also gives the guy rides to the grocery store to help him purchase groceries.

So what's his secret? How is he still so fruitful for God at age 93? I think it's because he is in regular fellowship with Jesus. Every morning he sits in his sunroom, surrounded by his paintings, sips on bad coffee (instant!), reads God's word, reads a devotional, and takes time to pray. Nothing fancy. No extravagant, mystical rituals. Just time with Jesus.

I'm convinced that the more closely we stay connected to Jesus, the more fruitful we will be. The more we marinate in his word and open our hearts in prayer, the more we will blossom with spiritual fruit. That's why Jesus said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV)

My grandpa abides with Jesus which then leads to him being fruitful. It's the same with my dad. His fruitfulness as a pastor for the last 30 years is because he is regularly abiding with Jesus. I want to be like my grandpa and my dad. I want to imitate them as they imitate Christ. There's no gimmick or trick to being fruitful for the Lord. It's simple. Abide with Jesus and then walk in the works he has prepared for you.


Last Sunday, I had an opportunity to visit and enjoy the hospitality of a great shepherd of God, Rev. Fr. Binoy Alexander, at Detroit, MI. What impressed me most was that achen practices what he preaches. He told me that most of the members of his congregation stays in the church after the service - some of them till the evening. The small courtyard of the church (that they dedicated only 2 months ago) is blazing with flowers, fruits, and vegetables. A mulberry tree was loaded with ripe fruits this Sunday. So, achen went and grabbed a ladder, climbed on the ladder collecting fruits, which was then distributed to all families. (We brought some fruits with us back to Cleveland.) When the shepherd shows compassion, everyone else will reflect that quality. Although his congregation is small, I am sure that they will do remarkable things because achen's heart is in the right place.

As you read through the articles in this week's edition of Malankara World Journal, please bear in mind that God takes ordinary people and produce extraordinary results from them. What we need to do is to be available to do what God wants to do through us. Look for opportunities to make a difference in someone else's life. Sometimes, a simple smile may lighten up someone's life. Please remember, without God, we are nothing! Let us reflect God's grace and compassion on our faces and in everything we do.

Let us pray.

"Guide us, O Lord. Our desire is to serve with quality, authenticity, humility, grace, mercy, and compassion. May we serve better in deeds than in words. Make us a people who have a heart for the whole world, not just our own little backyard. Guard us from acts of the flesh, from foolish decisions, from rash actions, from impatient reactions, from selfish motives. Lord, Your reputation is at stake, not ours. We hold You in highest esteem. Our desire is to know Christ intimately, and in knowing Him, to model His life of service in an authentic manner.

We pray this in His name. Amen.

Please continue to pray for the abducted bishops and clergy in Syria.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Note: Prayer courtesy of Charles R. Swindoll

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 23)

Sermons for This Sunday (June 23)

We have expanded our sermon offerings to include the sermons based on the Saturday Evening Gospel reading in addition to the regular Sunday Gospel reading.

Sermons for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

More Sermons

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Habits are the Stairway to a Richer Life

by Judy Williamson, Executive Director, Napoleon Hill Foundation

How can I be of service? This question can be a tough one because the first thing we think about is joining the Peace Corps, becoming a missionary, or running a soup kitchen. But, isn't this just an excuse that keeps us from doing something that we can really manage right now, today? If our service must be something that we can brag about to elevate our status, is it really a service or a self-serving plot to impress or boost our sense of self-worth? I would like to suggest that if we have to think about what is worthy of our service then we are missing the point.

Listening instead of speaking, entertaining instead of being entertained, doing a chore instead of hiring it done, asking "how can I help you?" instead of asking "can you do this for me?", working overtime instead of taking time off, and multiple other things that we would prefer not to do but can always be of service by doing are mentioned for everyone to consider. Washing the car, doing the dishes, answering the phone, sweeping the floor, doing the laundry, making the bed, cooking dinner, and on and on are all ways of service. Get the point? We do not have to cross over our own doorstep to be of service. Opportunities are abounding, but those who report for duty are rare.

Little actions taken over time create profound lifetime habits that determine our destiny. If you can't see this coming, then you do not understand 'Cosmic Habitforce' as Dr. Hill describes it. Through our simple daily actions we ourselves create the patterns that become automatic through repetition in our lives. These automatic habits eventually determine our pleasing (or not so pleasing) personality traits. Thought habits and mental attitudes go hand in glove with these actions.

Make it your highest intention to cultivate good habits. When you do, you will be rewarded by the potential that you create for yourself.

Source: Napoleon Hill Yesterday & Today; Copyright © 2013 Napoleon Hill Foundation

Featured: True Power, Even in The Church, Is in Serving Others - Pope Francis
"For a Christian, true progress lies in humbling ourselves as Jesus did," according to Pope Francis. "True power is in service. There is no room for power struggles within the Church."

In the readings of the day, Mark 9:30-41, the source of the Pope's reflections, Jesus speaks of his passion. However his disciples, begin arguing about who is the greatest among them. Commenting on this 'bitter episode' the Pope noted: "The struggle for power in the Church is nothing new. In fact it began then with Jesus". The Pope said: "In the Gospel of Jesus, the struggle for power in the Church must not exist. Because true power, that which the Lord by his example has taught us, is the power of service."

"Real power is service. As He did, He who came not to be served but to serve, and His service was the service of the Cross. He humbled Himself unto death, even death on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us. And there is no other way in the Church to move forward. For the Christian, getting ahead, progress, means humbling oneself. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never, ever be able to understand Jesus' true message on power. "

The Pope said that progress "means humbling ourselves", it means "always being of service" to others. In the Church, he added, "the greatest is the one who serves most, the one who is at the service of others." "This is the rule." Yet, noted Pope Francis, from the beginning until now there have been "power struggles in the Church," even "in our manner of speech":

"When a person is given a job, one that the eyes of the world is a superior role, they say: 'Ah, this woman has been promoted to president of that association, or this man was promoted ...'. This verb, to promote: yes, it is a nice verb and one we must use in the Church. Yes, He was promoted to the Cross, He was promoted to humiliation. That is true promotion [advancement], that which makes us seem more like Jesus! "

The Pope then recalled that St. Ignatius of Loyola who, in his Spiritual Exercises, asked the Crucified Lord for "the grace of humiliation." This, he reiterated, is "the true power of the service of the Church." This is the true path of Jesus, true and not worldly advancement:

"The path of the Lord is being in His service: as He carried out His service, we must follow Him, on the path of service. That is the real power in the Church. I would like today to pray for all of us, so that the Lord give us the grace to understand that: that real power in the Church is service. And also to understand the golden rule that He taught us by His example: for a Christian, progress, advancement, means being humble. We ask for this grace. "

Source: Radio Vaticana

A Servant's Heart: A Trialogue Sermon

by Pastors: Edward F. Markquart, John O'Neal, Stephanie Coltvet

[Editor's Note: I came across this trialogue sermon that best describes what a servant leadership proposed by Jesus and answers the questions 'who is the greatest?' in this week's bible passage as specified in the lectionary. This is edited.]

Scripture: Mark 9:30-37

Today we are doing a "Trialog" sermon. And what is that? We made up the word "trialog" to describe the three of us preaching a sermon together. Rather than a "dialog" it's a "trialog." The three of us pastors get together, study and discuss the Bible readings for the day and then we reproduce the best part of our discussion for you. We wanted to do that today because it will be most likely the last time the three of us will ever do that.

The Bible readings for today have to do with one of the most fundamental and important teachings of Jesus…on being a servant. And Jesus wants to transform our hearts from selfish hearts to servant hearts!

Let me give you a little Biblical background and context for you as we get into Jesus teaching for us today. The disciples were north near Mount Hermon, and Jesus divided them into two groups. Three disciples (Peter, James and John) went to the top of the mountain and experienced the Transfiguration where Jesus shown like the sun and the three disciples had a vision of Moses and Elijah. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples were down in the lowlands and saw a young boy who had epileptic seizures, threw himself into the fire, and the nine disciples could not heal him. On the walk home to Capernaum, Jesus' home town, the disciples got into an argument as to which of them were the greatest. The three who were on the top of Mount Hermon and saw the glorious Transfiguration? Or, the nine who could not cast out the demon from the little boy who had seizures? Jesus overheard their discussion about greatness. He waited to talk with them until they got home to Capernaum and inside a house, perhaps Jesus' own home in Capernaum. We are told that Jesus sat down on the floor, into the teaching position of a rabbi, and began to teach them, "The first and greatest in the kingdom of God is a person who is last like a servant." Who is the greatest? A person who has the heart of a servant. What a powerful teaching.

When we think of someone or something that is the greatest, we think in terms of the best. Who is at the top of their game, what is the best product, who is the best known. But Jesus takes this concept of who is the greatest and, as he often did, turns it on its head. He turns it upside down. Jesus puts new meaning on what it means to be the best and the greatest. Its not the one with the greatest skills or talents nor the one who is the most famous or who draws the most attention or the one who has the most people serving him or her, but the greatest is the one who serves the least and lowliest.

The greatest is the one who moves from having a selfish heart to having a servant's heart. I keep thinking of the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him that he must sell his possessions and give to the poor. And then Jesus invited the man to follow him. Upon hearing all of this, the man went away grieving, because he had many possessions. This man chose to let his possessions rule his life and his heart. The fact that the man was rich was not the problem; the problem was that his selfish heart was unwilling to let go of his possessions. This illustrates to me that there is a sense of sacrifice that is built into a servant's heart - a willingness to let go of one's selfish desires.

What are some Bible verses that teach us about being a servant? Where do we find this important lesson about servanthood in the Bible?

For me one of the most profound teachings of the New Testament comes from our first reading today in Philippians 2: 5-11. The well known commentator, William Barkley said, "This is the greatest and most moving passage Paul ever wrote about Jesus." This is one place where the Apostle passes on Jesus teaching in a profound way. That even though Jesus was equal with God, he gave up that equality with God and took the form of a servant and served God even to the point of giving his life… You see, it was because Jesus was the ultimate servant that God exalted him to the greatest position. Therefore, our goal as disciples of Jesus Christ, is to seek not our own glory but seek to serve others and thereby bring glory to God.

Another place in Scripture where we hear Jesus' teachings on servanthood is just a chapter after what we heard today from the Gospel of Mark. It is a parallel passage really, because in it, we find two disciples, James and John, asking Jesus to grant them their wish to sit at his right and his left in his glory. They wanted to elevate their status by being as close to Jesus as possible. In other words, they wanted to be the greatest. After the other disciples heard this and got angry with James and John, Jesus called them together and taught them that "whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

I feel that the foot washing in the Gospel of John is a great teaching on servanthood and Jesus also demonstrates what he is teaching . You remember the story. It was Holy Thursday. The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. They had been walking all day and their feet were dusty and dirty. The servant girl would normally wash their feet before the meal. Instead, it was Jesus who took a bowl of water and the dish towel from the servant girl. Jesus knelt down and washed each of the disciples' feet. The disciples were speechless. Silence. All you could hear was the slashing of water and Jesus wiping those feet with a towel. Jesus finally got to Simon Peter who said, "Not me Jesus. It is not right for you my master to wash my feet. I am your servant." Jesus said, "If I don't wash your feet, you cannot be my disciple." Peter said, "Wash all of me. My head, my hands, my feet. Wash all of me that I may be truly be your disciple." Jesus did. When he finished, Jesus got up and addressed all of his disciples from all time, "How happy you will be if you put this into practice. How happy you will be if you live a life of a servant."

I like the foot washing because there Jesus does demonstrate what he is talking about. But where else in the Bible do we find demonstrations of the servant heart, of people who lived out this call to be a servant?

ST – We all know the story of the Good Samaritan…two holy men, a priest and a Levite, avoid a man who is lying on the road who has been robbed and beaten. But a Samaritan - a person who was a stranger to the land and considered an outcast - stopped, and went out of his way to bandage the man's wounds, pour oil and wine on them, put the man on his own animal, bring him to an inn, and pay for his expenses! This demonstrates the heart of a servant.

Zacchaeus. Zaccheus was a crook, the chief tax collector in town who stole from everybody by charging exorbitant taxes. Jesus came to down, found Zaccaheus and said, 'I'm coming to your house today." What Jesus said to Zaccheus was not recorded in the Bible. All we know is that when Jesus and Zaccheus came out from that house, Zaccheus' heart had been changed from a selfish heart to a selfless heart. He said, "I will pay back four fold to all I have stolen from."

I think the story of Stephen the first deacon is important. The description of the character a deacon is found in 1st Timothy 3, but in Acts 6 we learn that the job of the deacon was to take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. In the early church there were specific people in charge of serving those who had the greatest needs. Stephen was the first on the list of the 7 first deacons, whose were assigned the job of serving and taking care of the poorest of the poor.

What are some personal examples of great servanthood that we have observed in the past?

Irving and Jenny Burk… When I came to Grace Lutheran Church more than thirty years ago, I called on the shut ins and gave them Holy Communion. I called on Irving and Jennie Birk. Jennie was blind but still said to me every springtime, "Pastor, aren't the rhodedendrons beautiful outside our kitchen window?" Time and time again, I saw Irving walking his blind wife, Jennie, on the streets of Des Moines. I thought to myself on many occasion, "When I grow up, I want to be just like Irving Birk." What an inspiration. Time passed. Both Irving and Jennie died. Now, it is Bill Manderville and his care of his wife Barbie who has Parkinsons. I see how persistent and caring Bill is for Barb and I say to myself, "When I grow up, I want to be just like Bill and his care of Barbie." The Apostle Paul says in the Book of Philippians that we are to grow into the maturity and likeness of Jesus Christ. That is the goal: for our love to be mature like Christ, like Irving Birk, like Bill Manderville. Yes, that is who I want to be.

For me it would be when I met Maria at the orphanage in Mexico. How she opened up her house to children who were on the street after an especially bad winter when the rains washed away many homes around her. That year, there were may homeless children with no place to go. That's how the orphanage began and Maria took care of children from then on….

My grandma had Alzheimer's. She lived with my family when I was a teenager. I didn't know how to handle the fact that my grandmother did not remember who I was…and so sometimes I avoided spending time with her because it was frustrating and uncomfortable for me. But there was this man named Ray. And Ray would come every Tuesday to pick up my grandma and take her to lunch with some other senior citizens in the community. Ray was not related to my family and he didn't know my grandma before Alzheimer's. He just had the heart of a servant. His servant heart made an impact on my selfish heart.

How about today? Those are great stories of the past but what about today? Who are some of the great servants of today that we can think of?

I've had the privilege to know Bill Grant these past couple years. I am impressed with the way he carries himself despite the many challenges he's had to face in dealing with cancer and heart disease. What has astounded me most, however, has been his desire and willingness to go to Mississippi to help with hurricane relief - even in the midst of his fight with cancer. Last January, he joined the team of twenty from Grace to help in Ocean Springs, MS. With his experience as a chef, he was able to run the kitchen and feed hundreds of people. It was an exhausting and draining week for him, and yet he had no complaints whatsoever. And then…he went back again…this time with his son! Add to that, he and his wife Mary invited twenty four foster kids into their home throughout their lifetime! Two weeks ago I visited Bill at Good Samaritan hospital and I asked him what wisdom he could share with a person just starting out in life. He said, "Follow your dreams and help other people." Bill has a servant's heart.

There are so many great servants here at Grace but I think of some who have given countless hours of service behind the scenes year after year for sometimes many years. Theresa Peterson who handles the finances of Grace, Aden O'Dell, David Franz, and Gary Hornbuckle who work at maintaining our building every week sometimes several days a week. Sandy Bollinger who does so many things around here. And there are literally hundreds of others who give of themselves and are faithful servants of Jesus Christ here at Grace and in the community. This is part of the heart of our congregation.

Let me tell you a story. I was calling on Marilyn Lamb, a shut in, in our parish the other day. She is now living at a new nursing home. I went to sign in and saw that she had eighteen different visitors to see her in the past few weeks. My mind quickly flashed to Jimmie Brandt's "sign in" chart from years ago. Jimmie Brandt, the high school music teacher from Mount Rainier. Jimmie Brandt, the choir director for years here at Grace Lutheran. Jimmie Brandt, who was fallen by a severe stroke when he was in his young thirties. I was over to see Jimmie and sign in and give him Holy Communion. There was one name, only one, on that sheet of visitors. Over and over and over again. Every Wednesday. Every Sunday. Every year. Dennis Stuessy. Picking Jimmie up for choir. My heart was always touched by seeing Denny's signature week after week, month after month, year after year, until Jimmie died. Yes, people have hearts of a servant and Denny Steussy does.

These are all great examples of what it means to be a servant but how do we become more like a servant ourselves? How do we learn to do this? Certainly it has to do with God's Spirit living inside of us. I don't believe that anyone can be a true servant unless the Holy Spirit lives in your heart and transforms your heart into the heart of a servant. But how can we grow in this area of service?

Certainly praying about it is important…Ask God to give you a servant heart. Not just once, but daily. Ask God to open your eyes to see the opportunities to serve that exist around you. And not only that, ask God to open your hands so that you can do something to help those in need around you!

Imitating those we admire who are servants. I learn best by imitation and not reading books nor reading sets of directions. Rather, I imitate people like Irving Birk, Bill Manderville, Dennis Stuessy and a host of others who have servant's hearts. My primary learning style is not by reading nor even by having things explained to me but by imitating. I watch somebody live a certain way and I try to imitate the way they live. Imitation is my primary learning style, not reading, nor receiving explanations.

Sometimes we need to "just do it," like Nike says. Whenever we actually get out there and serve, we find that we are the ones who are truly blessed. God created us to serve and when we are doing what God created us to do, we are most blessed and that just motivates us to want to serve more. When members of Grace come back from mission trips, they always talk about that – how blessed they were in serving others.

I hope you will pray for and look for opportunities to "just do it" - to serve. ...

The Way Up With God Is Down!

by John Jewell

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

Our gospel lesson for today turns the table on our culture's sense of success and what it means to be a truly great person. When we hear the words, "He's a great man," or "She's a great woman," a picture of a servant does not likely come to mind. And if we describe someone as , "truly successful," we do not usually think of someone whose goal is to become a servant to everyone!

Yet, the surprising thing about Jesus and his ministry is the way he went about selecting those who would become his representatives in the world after his death. If we can understand why he chose the people he did and how he worked with them, we will go a long way toward understanding how God can use us in our world today.

First a few notes about Capernaum:

Capernaum was a small fishing village on the North end of the Sea of Galilee. It was here that Jesus set up headquarters during at least the first half of his public ministry. From here Jesus traveled far and wide while news about his teaching and healing ministry spread throughout Israel like wildfire. Capernaum was the home of four fishermen who gave up the fishing industry to become followers of Jesus.

The Capernaum road is the road where you and I work and live and play. The village of Capernaum is like our town or city where ordinary people try to make ends meet, raise their families and make sense out of life. Whether fishermen like Peter and Andrew, James and John or carpenters, laborers, doctors and insurance salespersons like you and me. It is where we live that Jesus comes looking for those who will see to the completion of his work.

Capernaum-type disciples:

As you look closely at the lives of the fisher-disciples of Jesus, you will see them portrayed with all their failures and imperfections. Our scripture this morning is an almost embarrassing account of how these disciples shamelessly allowed their personal ambitions to stir up contention and rivalry in the ranks of Jesus' closest associates.

For most of us, the incident in our scripture would be a very discouraging time. It had been only recently that Simon Peter had identified Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus now for the second time tells the disciples he will be put to death. He is on the way to Jerusalem where he will be denied by Peter, betrayed by one of his disciples and be arrested, tried and condemned to death.

Now this. Out on the Capernaum Road, just when the crisis begins to intensify, the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest. Seem unbelievable? Think about it. The world we live in is no less troubled than the world of Peter, James and John and the village of Capernaum. While churches squabble, cities crumble. Christians debate as societies decay. Religious parties struggle while children starve.

There is a very serious question to be asked here... a question that is critical in understanding Jesus' choice of followers... a question that is important to you and me today... How can Jesus Christ use such imperfect people to build a perfect kingdom?

The Master's Plan:

God made the most radical decision -- the Divine plan is that the followers of Jesus Christ, with all their weaknesses, will build the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not go to the rich or powerful or famous to gather troops for his movement. He chose the "rag-tag" crew on the Capernaum road and still chooses people like you and me to build the church and carry God's good news to a fractured world.

There is an old legend that tells how Jesus, after his ascension, was asked by the angels how he planned to complete his mission. The angels were incredulous. "Them?" they exclaimed pointing to the fearful, unlearned disciples who stood lost and confused on the earth below, "You are going to depend on them to complete your mission?"

"That's correct," Jesus answers.

"And should they fail??" the angels counter, "If they are not capable of carrying on your work, do you have a back-up plan?"

"They are my only plan," Jesus says.

There are two key issues in our gospel lesson about the way Jesus intended to shape imperfect people into bearers of his good news.

• He chose people who were teachable

• He chose people regardless of their station in life

[1] Jesus took his disciples aside and did some teaching about what it means to be great. Because they were teachable and receiving of his words, there was hope for their transformation. The word of Christ was the transforming power and the teachability of the disciples was the transforming premise.

"If you want to be first, you must be last," he taught them. They had argued about who would be the greatest in terms of the world's view of greatness. In the eyes of God, however, greatness is measured by servanthood. Those who live with a "me first" attitude will come in last with God. Those who live with a "you first" attitude in the family of faith will come in first with God. Jesus would continue on from this event to his arrest and crucifixion in Jerusalem. The disciples would witness the greatest "you first" in all of history.

[2] Jesus set a child in the midst of his followers and said that the welcoming of a little child was a welcoming of Christ himself. To welcome a child is to welcome the most vulnerable and the most insignificant. This was a great reversal of the "children should be seen and not heard" attitude of his world. If fact it was more than that. Women, children, gentiles, the sick and the dispossessed were the insignificant and even rejected part of society. A male, Jewish Pharisee was at the top of the ladder, a gentile woman was a "dog."

Jesus turned all of this inside out and upside down. He chose the fisherman and tax collector over the priest and the scribe. He put a child first and a ruler last.

The way up with God is down !

Here's the genius of the Master's plan. Whenever the followers of Jesus Christ would think about the fact that Jesus had chosen them - of all people - to carry on his mission, they would automatically be called back to the heart of the good news of God. "If God can love even me, then God's love is truly for everyone!"

Here's the Master's plan for us today It's as easy as ABC.


Jesus Christ has accepted us for who wee are and his spirit works within us to make us who God wants us to be. Our acceptance by Christ translates into our acceptance of others.


I believe or trust that Jesus Christ knows what he is doing by choosing me for his work. I may feel insignificant or powerless to help with his mission, but the fact is that as a Christian person, I am chosen to bear the good news to others.


I make a commitment to choose the way of Christ instead of the way of the world when it comes to the meaning of greatness. Instead of "me first" - it is "Christ first." Instead of "my way" it is "his way."

The one thing that can bring authentic renewal to our life of faith and to our witness in the world is to stop and reflect seriously on that incident of the Capernaum Road. When we come to terms once again with the fact that God loves "even me" - we are in touch with the power that can change lives and change our world.

Discussion and Reflection on the Text: Mark 9:30-37

For the second time, Jesus speaks of his death and adds that he will be "betrayed." One hears the Jeremiah passage echoing through these lines. The disciples do not understand yet. When Jesus first told them about his death, Peter took Jesus aside and corrected him - this time there is silence. The silence does not, however, come from understanding. We might imagine that the dullness of Jesus' disciples was a significant part of his suffering as the weeks move toward Jerusalem and the final confrontation.

Jesus' teaching takes on more urgency as the journey continues. These followers will have to assume the mission. Yet, like quarreling children playing "king of the castle," they argue about who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom to come. As they do not understand Jesus' impending death, so they do not understand the nature of greatness.

It is important to capture the sense of Jesus' teaching here. Our world is not different. Servanthood is not new and has never been seen by the world as the way to greatness. In fact, servanthood implies lesser status than the one who is served.

Jesus takes a child into the midst of them. Children had "their place" in the culture of the day. The disciples has discouraged the presence of children on one occasion. They were to be "seen and not heard." Is not simply the nature of the child that is important, but the acceptance of the child as a person of significance that counts with God. Servants and children were near the bottom of the social ladder. Jesus once again turns the values of the world inside out - this is consistent with his relationship with servants, children, women and gentiles. What counts with God is not that which counts with the culture. It is this dynamic that drives our sermon theme for today.

Greatness, Humility and Servanthood

by John Piper

Gospel: Mark 10:32–45

Gospel Humility

This message is about the humility that defines a person who is transformed by the gospel of Jesus. It's about gospel humility.

The reason I am talking about it is that I want to be humble and to see this church marked by humility. As a church, we are human, we are large, we are widely known, and we are sinners. That's a very dangerous mix. It has almost all the ingredients that go into the recipe of pride.

Humility That God Sees

I know that the best and humblest person who has walked the earth was tortured to death because he was accused of blasphemous arrogance. "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him because . . . he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). So I don't expect his followers will ever be able to avoid the accusation of arrogance. If you are the humblest outspoken witness for Jesus as the only way to God, you will accused of arrogance.

So avoiding that is not my aim in this message. What I want to avoid is the reality of pride. I want there to be real humility in me, and in this staff and these elders and this church - the kind of humility that God sees and that spiritually discerning people see, even if the world doesn't see it.

Getting a Sense of What Humility Is

So what I would like to do first is not start with a definition of humility but with six passages of Scripture and a brief comment about each. I think what will come out of these texts is a sense of what humility is. Then I will draw out some implications for us as a church. And close with the question why this is so important and try to answer some objections that the world has to humility.

First, then, six texts that open us up to what God means by humility.

1. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

My point here is that humility agrees and is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us and calling us according to his purposes, not our merit. And he does this (v. 29) "so that no human being might boast in the presence of God," but that (v. 31) the one who boasts might boast in the Lord. Humility agrees and is glad that God acts in a way to take the focus of all boasting away from man and put it on himself. Are you happy about that? Are you glad God does it that way? Humility is glad about that.

2. 1 Corinthians 4:6–7

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Humility agrees and is glad that everything we have is a free gift of God, and that this severs the root of boasting in our distinctives. Whatever talents, whatever intelligence, what ever skills, whatever gifts, whatever looks, whatever pedigree, whatever possessions, whatever wit, whatever influence you have, put away all pride because it is a gift, and put away all despair because it is a gift from God.

3. James 4:13–17

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" - 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Humility agrees and is glad that God governs the beating of our hearts and our safe arrival at every destination. If we get there, God got us there. And if we don't get there, God willed that we not get there. Humility gets down under this sovereign providence and nestles there gladly.

4. Colossians 3:12–13

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

One of the implications of this text is that our humble willingness to forgive others their offenses is rooted in God's forgiveness of us through Jesus. In other words, Christian humility is rooted in the gospel. True humility is gospel humility. It is not just copying Jesus in his willingness to die for others; it is enabled by Jesus because he died for us. Humility is rooted in the gospel.

5. Philippians 2:3–8

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Humility serves. Humility gets down low and lifts others up. Humility looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those needs. Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to the point of death. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Humility measures everything it does by whether it serves the good of other people. Am I feeding my ego or am I feeding the faith of others? Humility serves.

6. Mark 10:42–44

Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Humility agrees and is glad that this servanthood is true greatness. Verses 43–44: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."

Summary on Humility

So to sum up,

1. Humility is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us so that we boast only in him and not man.

2. Humility happily admits that everything we have is a free gift from God, so that we can't boast in it.

3. Humility is glad to affirm that God sovereignly governs our heartbeats and safe arrivals, or non-arrivals.

4. The root of Christian humility is the gospel that Christ died for our sins. That's how sinful I was. That's how dependent I am.

5. Humility gives itself away in serving everyone, rather than seeking to be served.

6. And humility is glad to affirm that this service is true greatness.

If God would work this humility in us - O how freely we would serve each other. One of the reasons I am praying and preaching toward humility is that the church survives and thrives by servanthood. Every member of Christ is gifted in someway to serve.

The All-Pervasive Effects of Humility

My point here is that without humility we won't serve, or we will serve for the wrong reasons. It seems almost impossible to overstate how pervasive are the effects of humility in our lives. Listen to the way John Calvin describes the importance of humility.

I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility." (Institutes 2.2.11)

Why is that? Why is humility so pervasive as to be the first, second, and third precept of Christianity? It is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible. For example:


Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn't made him humble?


Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn't made him humble?


Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?


Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn't made him humble?

And on and on it goes. Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That's why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. And he could have said fourth, fifth, sixth, and more. It is pervasively effective.

Answering the World's Objections

So in closing, and to give you a fuller flavor of what the humble life is like, let me try to answer briefly a few objections that the world may have to this emphasis on humility.

Objection 1: Humility makes a person gloomy, dismal, downcast, unhappy

Answer: No, gospel humility frees you from the need to posture and pose and calculate what others think, so that you are free to laugh at what is really funny with the biggest belly laugh. Proud people don't really let themselves go in laughter. They don't get red in the face and fall off chairs and twist their faces into the contortions of real free laughter. Proud people need to keep their dignity. The humble are free to howl with laughter.

Objection 2: Humility makes you fearful and timid

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because they think the best source of courage is self-confidence. It's not. God-confidence is the best source of courage. And only humble people lean on God for confidence. "I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker" (Isaiah 51:12–13). In other words, fear of man is a sign of pride, not gospel humility.

Objection 3: Humility makes you passive and removes the driving motor of achievement

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because for them the driving motor of achievement is feeding the ego with accomplishments. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."

The power of God's grace in the heart of the humble believer who depends utterly on God produces incredible energy and industry. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13).

Joy, Courage, and Industry

Gospel humility, grace-based humility, Jesus-exalting humility does not make you gloomy, or timid, or passive. It makes you joyful, and courageous and industrious.

It makes you a servant - like Jesus. Only God can do it. And he does it through Jesus in the gospel. May he work this in us and unleash a tidal wave of service in our church and in the world. Amen.

©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. Website:

[Editor's Note: Edited to maintain focus on theme.]

The Three Tests of a Servant Leader

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)

The pastor who is a servant to his flock has an authority and influence unmatched by those who have taken all the leadership courses and read all the books and are able to display all the certificates on their walls.

The leader who will serve his people demonstrates Jesus Christ to them, proves his concern for their needs, models effective leadership for those coming after him, and builds a solid structure on a firm foundation.

Not all pastors want to serve. Some wish to be known as strategists and pulpiteers, managerial experts and motivational geniuses. But only those who serve are building a church that will last upon a solid biblical foundation. The others are playing their control games.

Here are 3 areas by which anyone considering becoming a leader of God's people can check himself.

What servant leadership looks like

In John 13, Jesus girds Himself with a towel, gets down on his knees, and does the lowliest work imaginable to the disciples: He washes their feet.

A servant leader can frequently be found working behind the scenes, taking the work no one else wished to tackle, seeing that others get the credit, and rejoicing when someone else succeeds and prospers.

At a church dinner, a servant leader will only rarely be seen at the head table being waited upon. Look for him among the tables, pouring drinks and greeting guests and ministering in small ways. Don't be surprised to find him washing dishes or taking out the garbage.

You measure his effectiveness not by the numbers of people he controls, but the number he serves.

What a servant leader says to others

To the blind beggar of Jericho, the Lord Jesus asked a question the poor man had never heard in all his years. He had lived off cast-offs, throwaways, spare change, and scraps for all his life. Now, standing before the Lord Jesus Christ, he hears a question never asked him before: "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:51)

That's the question of a servant. "What can I do for you?"

Interestingly, the Lord asked the identical question earlier in Mark 10:36, when James and John brought their little self-advancement scheme to Him. He refused their request. In the case of the blind beggar who asked for his sight, Jesus granted it. So, we conclude that asking the question "What can I do for you?" is not to obligate oneself to do whatever we are asked. The Lord does not send out His people to mindlessly obey every needy individual they meet.

A group of people gather to do a job. You are there to get a job done. Some wish to be leaders, some have preconceived notions on how to do it best, and some just want to watch. But when someone arrives asking "How can I help?" your heart skips a beat. This is the most welcome person in the room.

It's what servants ask. They just want to bless the others. A servant, it is said, works to make others successful.

A servant submits to others. (See Ephesians 5:21 where all believers are instructed to submit to one another.) And this may be the reason there is so little real service going on today; people prefer to take the power position, not the inferior, lowly spot.

And yet, this is what our Lord did. In fact, He taught that true greatness comes just in this way. Only the truly wise among us will believe that, however. The rest will spend their lives building fancy resumes by heading up organizations and receiving impressive awards.

What a servant leader says to himself

Our Lord said, "When you have done everything commanded you, say (to yourself), 'We are unprofitable servants; we have only done our duty.' (Luke 17:10)"

The secret of effective servant leadership is driving a stake through the heart of the ego. The way to do that is to give yourself a strong talking-to on the matter of duty and expectations. Rebuke your pride, restrain your lust for recognition, and release your love.

The immature person is often willing to work on a project, even sacrificially. But when the work is over, he/she will be expecting some kind of recognition and appreciation. Most of us have known of people who dropped out of church because they worked hard and no one appreciated them. Ask them about their church membership and you will hear their story. The sad tale of the church's failure to properly appreciate them has eaten at them ever since, so the story is always ready to be told.

They were trapped by their ego with its insatiable craving for recognition.

It helps to bear in mind that Jesus did not say we should feel this way to other people–try telling someone "You are an unprofitable servant" and it will be received as a rebuke to them. Nor did He say that others should say this to us. He said this is what we are to tell ourselves.

It's all about controlling our self-centeredness to free ourselves to bless others in whatever ways present themselves.

If you want to be a leader, you will have a problem: no one wants to follow.

But if you want to be a servant, you're in luck: everyone likes to be served.

Family Special: Having and Raising Good Kids

by Wayne Brouwer

Scripture: Luke 1:5–25, 57–80

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John."
Luke 1:13

The Second World War was thundering to a close when the young soldier stepped onto the troop carrier that would carry him from the United States to Europe. Halfway across the Atlantic, word arrived that an armistice had been signed. The war with Germany was over.

Of course, the ship could not turn around; there were clean-up operations to be done in Europe. So the ship kept going, and the young man did his duty.

After his tour was over, the soldier married his sweetheart back home. It took some time to find work, but they finally found employment at a farm. Growing a family was more important to them, though, than raising crops. Unfortunately, after years of trying, they learned they were not likely to have children.

They prayed that God would trump the doctor's word. Against human odds, a healthy baby girl was born in the fifth year of their marriage. A baby boy followed, then three more girls and another boy.

The couple had a good life on the farm, but none of their six children followed them into the family business. Instead, the four daughters became teachers in Christian schools. One son wed a doctor, and together they have been active in cross-cultural mission efforts; the other son became a pastor and Bible teacher.

To this day the postwar couple shrugs when asked how it all came about. "We just begged God to give us kids," they say. "Then we learned to pray for our children every day."

I know. I'm their eldest son. And I'm only now beginning to realize how much my parents were like the infertile couple Elizabeth and Zechariah, who one day felt ecstasy as well as fear when God actually answered their prayers for a child. They could only vow to do their best and ask for God's help.

There is no magic formula for having kids, let alone having them turn out well. Many couples remain childless after years of agonizing prayer. And even miracle children, bathed in spiritual significance, carry with them no guarantees of piety. The old priest Zechariah and his wife celebrated the day of John's birth. But what did they think when their son lived like a wild man in the desert, provoking the wrath of Jewish leaders and priests with his scathing sermons and unorthodox baptisms? Were they alive when their son was imprisoned, then beheaded?

Should we stop asking for children because they bring pain into our lives? No. This story and others remind us that we live in a broken world in which we depend on one another for encouragement when the waiting is long or when children don't turn out the way we had hoped. With the help of others, and with God's encouragement and strength, we can have hope.

Let's Talk

  • How do Christian couples spiritually prepare to have children? What are some requests we make of God? What happens when the waiting is long - where do we go for help?
  • In what formal way do we declare that our children belong to God? How will these ceremonies be carried out? What part will our parents and friends play in them?
  • What plans are we making to educate our children in the ways of the Lord? Who, besides us, is responsible for their ongoing instruction?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples

Health Tip: Raising Smarter Kids: Why Nutrition Matters

Los Angeles, CA (June 2013) - If you're a mother, it goes without saying that you're passionate about a lot of things when it comes to your children's well-being. There are 1,001 things that matter, and trying to keep up with the latest "best advice" on what your child really needs to be healthy, happy, and successful can be overwhelming. But no matter what else tops your family's priority list, one thing is the same for us all: Good nutrition is important for each and every child.

"Have you ever stopped to think about how children actually grow?" asks Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana - The Modern Princess, and coauthor of "A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year". "Their developing brains, organs, and nervous systems are being built cell by cell during infancy and early childhood. Specifically, babies' brains grow faster from birth to three years than at any other time of life - and that growth is fueled by the food they eat!"

In fact, a recent study from the University of Bristol in the UK suggests that early childhood eating habits, especially up to the age of three, "may play a role in shaping the development of the brain, and thus affect behavior, learning performance, and IQ in later life."

"Clearly, the first few years are one of the most important nutritional times for kids," Ivana confirms. "But smart eating starts even earlier than that. Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy can boost your child's IQ by more than 3.5 points, according to a new study from NYU. Omega-3s are directly related to brain and nervous system development. Good sources are fish, fish oil, walnuts, and flax."

With that in mind, doesn't it make sense to provide your kids with nutritious foods and healthy eating habits that will lay the groundwork for a healthier life? Though it may seem overwhelming at first, maintaining a nutritious kitchen doesn't have to be yet another burdensome chore that you do only because it's good for you and your family.

"Trust me on that - I love eating and consider it to be one of life's great pleasures!" Ivana shares. "In fact, since I made the switch to healthier eating during my first pregnancy, I have felt better and enjoyed food more because my new dietary choices are both delicious and guilt-free. It takes 30 days of consistent behavior to make or break a habit. That's not so much, right? I encourage you and your family to give your meals a 30-day nutrition makeover and see if, by the end of that time period, nutrition has become a natural and enjoyable part of your daily routine."

Here are twelve simple tactics that will help you get started:

1. Figure out what a healthy diet looks like for your family.

You might find it helpful to think of daily nutrition as a plate. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with grains, and one-quarter with protein. Include dairy three times a day. Here's another way to look at it: Eat about twice as many fruits and veggies as you do grains and protein.

"Overall, the magic number for daily servings of fruits and vegetables is seven," Ivana says. "This will result in optimal physical health and mental well-being. Keep in mind that a child-sized portion is about half the size of an adult portion; for example, half a banana instead of a whole one. If you are teaching your child about the plate rule, use a smaller plate than your own."

2. Stop believing the myth that good food tastes bad.

Healthy eats have come a long way from the '70s-style "it's good for you, so eat it and try to ignore the taste" meals our moms used to put in front of us. Gourmet mamas now have a wider variety and better foods to choose from than ever before.

"One of my personal favorite yummy and nutritious brands is Plum Organics," shares Ivana. "My kids love Plum's Fiddlesticks, a handy fruit and whole grain snack that fits easily in little hands."

3. Start using healthy substitutes.

So you're not such a healthy eater. That's okay - you're hardly alone! And there's no time like the present to change your habits. Begin with simple things: Choose brown rice over white rice, for example, or whole oats over instant oatmeal. Whole fresh foods are always more nutritious than processed foods and will keep you feeling full for longer periods of time.

"Another good rule of thumb to remember when shopping is to always choose fresh ingredients over canned," Ivana recommends. "Lastly, remember that sugary sodas have ten teaspoons of sugar in each can! Trade them out for low-sugar natural sodas or 100 percent juices and commit to drinking more water overall. Before you know it, you'll be well on your way to a healthier diet."

4. Check the label.

Look for low sugar and low sodium content, as well as high healthy (unsaturated) fats. Keep your eye out for unhealthy additives like MSG, high sugar or sodium, artificial coloring or flavors, nitrates, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and saturated fats, for example.

"‘Hidden' ingredients like these are another good reason to buy whole fresh foods and cook from scratch whenever you can!" Ivana comments.

5. Watch out for fake "healthy" foods.

Unfortunately, just because something is marketed as "natural" or "healthy" doesn't mean that it is. Some of the most common misleading products are nutrition bars and breakfast cereals, which often contain more sugar than candy.

"Again, check the label," Ivana instructs. "The fewer added ingredients, the more likely you are getting a true product that is what it claims to be. Look for cereals and bars high in fiber and whole grain, with little or no sugar added."

6. Don't skip breakfast.

Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Since you haven't eaten in 12 hours or so, your body needs to be refilled with fuel in order to run (just like a car). Children who skip breakfast have poorer concentration and tend to miss more school. On the other hand, a good breakfast can boost energy, focus, and creativity.

"A simple bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit is a great choice," says Ivana. "Eggs make wonderful breakfasts, too: A single egg provides one-quarter of your child's daily protein requirement."

7. Turn old favorites into healthy treats.

One common complaint that people have when transitioning to a healthier diet is that they'll have to leave their favorite foods behind. However, if your family feels "too" deprived, you'll all be more likely to give in to temptation and fall back into your old habits. That's why it's important to find creative ways to keep old favorites on the table.

"Switch to whole wheat bread on your peanut butter sandwich, for example, and add banana slices and honey instead of sugary jam," Ivana suggests. "Or try whole grain pancakes instead of refined grain, and top them with fresh berries, yogurt, or real maple syrup instead of artificially flavored syrup. Also, remember that in this area the Internet is your best friend. Google ‘healthy substitute for [insert favorite recipe here]' and you'll probably get pages of results."

8. Try not to outsource healthy eats.

Yes, it's easy to buy premade healthy dishes. But often, home cooks underestimate just how simple it is to prepare nutritious options themselves. Take smoothies, for example. They can be expensive if you buy them from a vendor, and if they're fresh, you still have to wait for them to be prepared. If you have a blender, why not spend that same three-minute wait in your own kitchen and save some money?

"Throw in a banana, blueberries, or other fruit, and fill the empty space with almond milk, orange juice, or yogurt," Ivana instructs. "You'll have minimal clean up, and your children will be happily slurping on something they love and that's good for them."

Other easy snacks include:

• Avocados. Just cut each one in half and remove the seed - the skin provides its own natural bowl. Go au naturel with just a smidgen of salt, or fill the center with a scoop of tuna salad for a quick and nutritious mini-meal.

• Hummus and organic blue corn chips. Yum! Hummus goes well with veggie sticks, too.

• Apple slices with peanut butter - one of Ivana's all-time favorites.

9. Be ready to feed kids on the go.

A lot of healthy eating intentions become casualties of hectic modern living: You're in the midst of driving your kids to their various afterschool activities, for example, and everyone's starving. At that point, the drive-thru is the quickest and easiest option for a snack. That's why it's smart to keep go-anywhere high-energy snacks on hand.

"Nuts, low-fat cereal bars, or dried fruit (which is a good alternative to candy) work well," Ivana shares. "Pack some in your car or purse where they'll be handy en route from school to gymnastics class or other activities. Be sure to include water in your on-the-go kit, too: Hydration is important for focus and energy, especially after a long day."

10. Teach your child about good food choices.

Providing healthy foods for your children is a good first step, but don't stop there. Tell them why you buy the foods you do, and get them involved in planning and preparing the menu. Let your child choose what he wants to eat for a certain meal, for example, then go shopping together for the ingredients.

"It's a good idea to keep things simple (a meal that's under 15 minutes to prepare and that has easy clean up) so that it stays fun and doesn't put your child under pressure to perform," Ivana points out. "When the whole family eats the homemade dinner, give your budding chef a round of applause."

11. Support school lunches.

Over 16 million children in our country go hungry. And rising rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are linked to the poor eating habits we have as a nation. Sadly, many children get their most nutritious meals at school. School lunches are important!

"You can help by encouraging other parents to support your child's school nutrition program and by joining the school's health committee," Ivana says. "If one doesn't exist, think about starting it - school lunches are that important! At home, feed your child more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains so that when these things show up on the lunch line they're familiar and enjoyable choices."

12. Support school nutrition programs.

Check to see if your child's school has programs that teach students about healthy eating. Some schools grow their own edible gardens where children learn about healthy foods from seed to table. (You can learn more about these amazing programs at:

"Even if your child's school hasn't broken out the seeds and watering cans, it still might address good nutrition in health or science class, for example," Ivana shares. "If possible, volunteer to help out. This might be as simple as chaperoning your child's class on a field trip to a farm. And if there aren't any programs in place that teach children about healthy eating, talk to other parents and school administrators about the importance of starting one."

"As you focus on developing a healthier diet for your family, remember that you don't need to do everything at once," Ivana concludes. "Start slow. Take baby steps. When your family has adjusted to one change, make another. Soon, I hope you and your kids will be excited about how simple and tasty nutritious eating can be!"

About Princess Ivana:

Ivana is the author of "A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year," which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana - The Modern Princess, is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.

For more information, please visit

About the Book:

A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year (Don't Sweat It Media, Inc., April 2013, ISBN: 978-0-9888712-0-5, $15.95, is available at

Recipe: Easy Summer Salad

By Preston Maring, MD

This recipe keeps coming to mind when the first fresh corn of the season becomes available. Remembering how much I loved this recipe before, I got excited and forgot to cook the corn at all. Turns out the fresh young kernels were crunchy sweet and perfect raw.

And now for the best part — my son showed me a new trick that makes cutting cherry tomatoes in half a breeze. Invert a couple of round plastic container lids that are about 6 inches in diameter. Cover the inverted bottom lid with the cherry tomatoes. Place the other inverted lid on top of the tomatoes. Press down the top lid firmly with your palm, but not so hard as to squish the tomatoes. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut horizontally between the lids and “voila”— you’ve got a bunch of halved cherry tomatoes. Repeat until the pint is done.

Corn, Tomato, and Cilantro Salad


2 ears fresh corn, husked
1 pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Salad greens (optional)


Mix everything together. Mound on top of fresh salad greens. Serve. Marvel at what you created.

Serves Four

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories: 158
Fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Trans fat: 0 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 22 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 116 mg
Protein: 4 g

Source: Kaiser Permanente

Inspirational: The One-Minute Graduation Speech
I've given lots of commencement addresses and, despite the silly hat, it's a head-swelling experience to tell a captive crowd how they should live their lives. The problem is, speakers are to graduations what turkeys are to Thanksgiving, except people are much more interested in a turkey on a platter than a turkey behind a podium. What we need is a good one-minute graduation speech. Here's my platitude-stuffed effort:

"Okay, folks, you got your degrees. It's a good time to set goals and devise a plan. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. You need a roadmap, but be prepared for unintended detours, confusing signs and closed roads. Don't be afraid of change or unwilling to change. Enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you, because that's your life.

"Chances are, success and happiness are among your goals. But be careful, they're not the same - all successful people aren't happy and all happy people aren't successful. If you have to choose, choose happiness.

"Take control of your life by taking control of your attitudes. Pain and disappointment are inevitable, but suffering is optional and tough times are always temporary.

"Live within your means, and when you mess up, fess up. When you're in a hole, stop digging.

"Listen to both your heart and your head. Pursue your passions, but don't confuse feelings with facts, fun with happiness or pleasure with fulfillment.

"Don't sacrifice a thousand tomorrows for a few todays, and don't settle for a little life. Live with purpose and for significance. Respect yourself and others, avoid self-righteousness and be kind rather than right."

Remember, character counts.

Michael Josephson,

Humor: A.A.A.D.D. - Know The Symptoms!
Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.

This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table,
Put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
And notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back
On the table and take out the garbage first...

But then I think,
Since I'm going to be near the mailbox
When I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table,
And see that there is only one check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
So I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks,
But first I need to push the Pepsi aside
So that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Pepsi is getting warm,
And I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
A vase of flowers on the counter
Catches my eye--they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and
Discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
But first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter ,
Fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
But I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
So I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
But first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers,
But quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table,
Get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to
Remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
The car isn't washed,
The bills aren't paid,
There is a warm can of
Pepsi sitting on the counter,
The flowers don't have enough water,
There is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
And I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
And I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem,
And I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail....

Don't laugh -- if this isn't you yet, your day is coming!

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