Local or Organic and God or Jesus

Farmers Markets will open soon with fresh, local food. However, not all local farms are growing organic food. Unless a farmer’s stall indicates it grows organic food, it probably doesn’t. If none of the stalls at your farmers market indicate organic produce, don’t give up! Some small markets around town may have local and organic food. Or, some organic farmers will deliver food to your door. Use this guide from Eat Well  or this one from Organic.org to find fresh, local, organic food around you.

When shopping at a national food store chain, organic produce grown hundreds of miles away can lose its optimum shelf life by the time it finally arrives at your store, and then at your table. Use this handy guide for more information on the shelf life of produce at the Still Tasty website. Try to buy produce that is in season for the local area. The Eat Well website can help you understand what produce is in season in your area.

Of course, the best and freshest food is the food you grow yourself. I have tried several times to grow my own food but our land is shaded so if I want to grow food I have to grow it in a pot and move it around every day so it gets enough sun. Last year I had some success with peppers and onions, but not a lot. One year I grew collards but my dog loves to eat them so that didn’t work either.

I choose organic food over local conventionally grown food because I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Systemic pesticides in use today are absorbed by the plant so that washing will not get rid of the pesticides because the poison is actually in the food, not merely sprayed on top of it. (We should still wash our food before we eat it because topical sprays are still in use.) Even though researchers will say that the amount of pesticides in some foods are negligible, if you eat a lot of produce every day, year after year, organic and chemical-free produce will keep you from storing high levels of carcinogenic poisons in your body. Young people are very susceptible to a build up of systemic chemicals and can develop allergies, asthma, and other chronic problems early in life. Since the 1990s when GMO food came on the market, these types of problems have skyrocketed.

I choose organic AND local food because I think that is best; I also choose God AND Jesus because I believe the Christian religion is best for me. Anyone who has seriously searched for God will end up finding scripture that explains that God is holy. Worshiping God is serious business and whenever we approach Him in prayer or worship, we must give an account for our wrong-doing. In the three religions that worship the God of Abraham, some type of payment must be made to Him to make up for our wrong-doing. A sacrifice is necessary. In the Christian religion, the death of Jesus Christ who was born filled with God’s spirit was given to us to make up for our wrong-doing. Christ was perfect and without sin. He was the unblemished lamb, the chosen sacrifice for all sinner. Whenever Christians approach God in prayer or worship, our Lord Jesus Christ is there to intercede for us. He is our sacrifice and payment for our sins. Christians are able to have a personal relationship with God only because we acknowledge Christ’s death as the payment for our sin.

For those Christians following the Roman Catholic calendar, this Friday is Good Friday and is a Holy Day for Christians. It marks the day that Christ died on the cross for our sins. Christ died at the hands of Roman justice using a judicial system that is the basis for the one we still use today. Out of man’s brutal justice, God’s heavenly mercy was born. God’s timing was perfect. Since Christ’s death, the door to God is wide open and anyone can claim Christ’s death as payment for his sin. Now is the time of God’s favor for this great gift unburdens us from the yoke of God’s laws and His wrath against sin. Accepting Christ’s death as payment for our sins frees us from God’s condemnation.

If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.–1 John 2:2

 

 

Eating Agent Orange and Drinking the Kool-Aid

Chemical farming causes insects and weeds to grow hardier in order to withstand the increasing amounts of insecticides and herbicides in use today. My husband pointed me to an article in The Wall Street Journal on April 2nd about the Western Corn Rootworm that is destroying GMO corn.  76% of our nation’s corn crop is GMO corn and, as such, it is infused with a pesticide-producing gene right in the corn itself so farmers don’t have to buy more pesticide–at least that is what the company that sells the GMO seeds tells farmers. However, this article states, “In recent years, insecticide sales have surged, partly in response to resilient pests.”

The chemical companies are making a lot of money, first from selling their patented seeds, and then, selling more chemicals when the weeds and insects develop resistance to those poisons. Insects have been in the world for a very long time and are far more adaptable than humans. Not only are we eating pesticides because it is now “in the genes” but pesticides and herbicides are showing up in our rivers and streams, in our fish, and in our well water.

One chemical company is proposing a chemical insecticide that will save us from this nasty rootworm, Agent Orange. According to the Center for Food Safety, “Agent Orange was the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Vietnam, and it caused lasting environmental damage as well as many serious medical conditions in both American veterans and the Vietnamese.” The USDA wants to approve for use a dose half as strong to kill the rootworm. It will also require farmers to use patented seeds because after a half a dose of that deadly chemical, nothing but their seeds will grow in that poisonous dirt. There is only one way out of this: buy organic and sign the petition to prevent the USDA from allowing Agent Orange to be sprayed all over our food and land.

Drinking the Kool-Aid refers to an event in 1978 when a large number of religious people drank Kool-Aid laced with a lethal amount of poison in the belief that they would wake from death together on another planet in a state of bliss. Who could fall for such a ridiculous promise but desperate people? And who thinks that the rootworm won’t be back even stronger in just a few short years so that a stronger dose of Agent Orange will be needed?

Currently, it takes three years to turn a chemical-using farm into an organic farm. Three years to wipe away the chemical abuse caused by the lesser chemicals we use now, and return to the gentler, safer method of farming. Organic farming won’t make anyone rich, certainly not the chemical companies, but it will better enable us to care for one another, to reduce disease and allergies, and to bring back healthy streams and rivers without fear of these poisons showing up in our fish and wildlife. Our children and grandchildren deserve this.

God has made us for each other, to care for each other, to spend time with each other, and in some profound and miraculous way to love each other as He loves us. We have a never-ending supply of love from God through Jesus Christ. There is nothing we need to do but accept the precious gift of love through Jesus Christ who allows us to forgive wrongs and start again. Our families, our marriages, and our churches need our forgiveness. So does our earth.

Our nation’s organic farmers want to feed us good food and they are doing just that through life-giving and soil-energizing methods. They do not drink the Kool-Aid the chemical companies offer, and nor should we. Reward their method of caring for us and our earth by buying organic, even if it costs more. Their effort is well worth it. Our earth is worth it. The article in the WSJ ends with this quote from a University of Arizona professor, “We’re at a tipping point now where it’s early enough to make some changes. If we continue on the same trajectory as we have been, that opportunity will be lost.” We simply won’t recover our good earth in three years time if we use Agent Orange. It will take much, much longer.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. –Genesis 1:11-12

Choices and A Path That Seems Right

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

Making high nutrient foods like spinach, arugula, collards and other greens, along with a variety of vegetables the main dish of each meal is making a choice to eat differently than most folks around us. We make this choice because it is backed by scientific evidence that a diet high in greens and vegetables is healthier to the body than a diet high in meat and potatoes.

There are several ways to cook greens and vegetables and not all of them are the same. Buying ready-made vegetables that have sauce and pasta with them can save us time but often contain a lot fat. Putting cheese on vegetables or other sauces to cover up the “vegetable” taste will also add unnecessary calories.

Sauteing foods in oil can add calories, but using broth can add salt. Steaming vegetables is best but also less tasty and who wants to eat tasteless foods? The margarine that everyone used years ago on vegetables is now suspected to be worse for us than butter. In twenty more years, what else will ‘they’ prove unhealthful that is now thought to be healthy? Sugar is better than all artificial  sweeteners except stevia but a recent study proved that too much sugar in any form is bad for the body. Eating no meat at all can cause a deficiency in B12 and other important nutrients, but eating too much is not healthy either. Using a microwave kills nutrients and using oil past its smoke point is carcinogenic, as is roasting vegetables until they are black and crispy.

So many choices can bring us to a breaking point where we throw in the towel and eat what we like. Educating ourselves about our personal conditions can make some of these choices easier. For example, if we do not need to lose weight but want to gain nutrients, a little oil and nut butter sauces can help to brighten a meal of greens. If we are battling cancer, avoid blackened foods, sugars, and cooking with the microwave. If osteoporosis is our enemy, lowering salt and caffeine from our diet can help. We should try to do the best we can and remember that perfection is never the key and is rarely obtained.

Rather, moderation is the key to keeping on track. After all, we are in this for long haul. Changing our life’s eating patterns is not a diet. If meat is a delight to one with coronary artery disease, then one or two meals of meat a week can help us stay meatless on other days. A sugary dessert once a week will not be so harmful if it keeps us sugar-free the rest of the week. Soda or wine on the weekend may not be ideal but at least it is more healthful than drinking these sugary drinks all week. A cup of coffee a day is better than three.

Education and moderation can be spiritually healthy too. There are some spiritual beliefs and practices that seem right to us but are not sanctioned by Christ. Reading the Bible helps us to find out what pleases God. We cannot rely on our own direction which is like the  blind leading the blind. We need God’s Holy Word to direct us.

But even when we do follow Christ’s teaching as best as we can, we can end up overindulging ourselves in repentance and completely miss Christ’s forgiveness. Or we can spend our day in religious practices like prayer and Bible study but become so judgmental of others that we miss out on the blessings of service to others or fellowship with other believers. Or we can live a harsh and stoic life but never know the joy and spontaneity of Christ’s presence in our lives.

Whenever we strive for perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Our only perfection is in Christ. He clothes us in grace and allows us to experience God’s perfect love. Embrace who we are now and put our hope and faith in God’s transforming love. If we keep investing in our spiritual and physical health, then the Holy Spirit is alive in us and we are sure to reach our goals. Since God loved us so much that he gave His only son, then we too should love ourselves and others, all our imperfections and failings, not because we are worthy of that love but because God has commanded it.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galations 5:14

 

Lentils and Esau’s Hunger

Buy organic lentils at Whole Foods

Buy organic lentils at Whole Foods

I never ate lentils as a kid. Lentils were something my Jewish friends ate. They seemed exotic and since it was a bean, I was sure I wouldn’t like them.  When I stopped eating so much meat, I found a friend in lentils.

A cup of lentils are full of protein, nearly equal to meat but unlike meat they are loaded with nutrients. Protein-loaded foods have the ability to make us feel full and satisfied. Lentils are high in fiber, low in sugar, with 60 grams of calcium and a negligent amount of fats. Lentils come in a variety of colors: green, brown, red, yellow, and orange which is my favorite one.

The best part about lentils is that they don’t need to be soaked before cooking.  Most beans need at least a few hours soaking to get rid of the gasses. This means you can decide at the last minute to have lentils for dinner. Spread them out on a paper towel and look throughly through uncooked lentils for bits of debris and then rinse. Cover the beans with water. You can use broth or coconut milk instead and whatever spices you like, and simmer for about 30 minutes. They can get soft and mushy enough to use an immersion mixer for a very creamy and delicious soup.  The Whole Foods website has more information on lentils with a list of recipes.

Jacob, that clever younger brother of Esau the hairy one in the Bible, served his older brother a bowl of lentils in exchange for his birthright.  The story tells us that Esau was hungry enough to agree but the flip side of this statement is that Esau must not have thought very highly of his birthright nor did he believe his brother could just take it from him. The story also reveals that God is in control because even though Esau was older, God favored Jacob.

Our love for God is a great gift. What a blessing it is to wake every morning and spend time with Him and to fall sleep each night with our dreams held fast in His arms. He blesses us with a magnificent creation that reveals his majesty every day. Though our world is falling apart around us and evil can clearly be seen with each edition of the news, we hunger for His presence and have faith that God is sovereign.

The promise of Jesus belongs to every one of us and is this: through His sacrifice we are forgiven of our sins and can draw close to Him. This act of Christ is our most precious gift and the more we value it, the more we draw close to God. Unlike my Jewish friends, Christians have no birthright, in fact, we have no right at all to expect any inheritance into the everlasting kingdom of God, rather we have Jesus and through our faith in Him in what he did and what he said, we are called God’s very own children.

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:8-9

Meatless Monday and Daniel

Meatless Monday is a global movement that supports vegetarian cuisine. Eating less meat and animal products is good for our health, our planet, and our animals. Much of our reluctance to eat vegetarian dishes comes from not knowing how to cook them and not tasting them. Vegetarian cuisine is new to me and I had to relearn how to cook when I decided to reduce meat and animal products from my diet. Learning how to make one new recipe a week is a good way to increase our cooking inventory and our health. Meatless Monday aims to do just that. Visit their website for a host of recipes and meatless meal ideas.

Reducing all meat and animal products from our diets can be intimidating. Especially if we are accustomed to having it at every meal. So, for motivation, consider these facts. According to a well-known European study of 300,000 people, eating the same amount of calories, those who eat meat will steadily gain weight.  The only weight loss plan that has worked for more than a year is a high nutrient  vegetarian diet and a vegan diet is even better. Beware of the high protein, meat-eating diets. They do not work for more than a year and are terrible for our health. Eating meat is linked to obesity and a host of diseases while eating a high-nutrient plant-based diet is linked to an increase in health and well-being.

Lastly, but even more important than our personal health is  that the impact of all this meat-eating is slowly killing our planet. There is no more grazing room for our cattle and so grass-fed is available for only a small portion of our farm animals. Meanwhile, in other less developed countries, forests are being cut down for more pasture to raise animals for meat consumption. While here in our own country, our animals are fed a corn meal diet which is bad for them and dangerous for us. The conditions in which these animals live and die is heartbreaking. Grass-fed and cage-free can be a panacea for daily meat-eaters who think these animals are better off. Even in the best conditions, their end is all the same and the torture that goes on behind the slaughterhouse doors is our generation’s biggest secret.

What will our children’s children know us best for? Our incredible advances in technology? Our medical and pharmaceutical strides? Perhaps, but they will also know us for our daily habit of feeding ourselves way too much and how it negatively affected the planet and how cruel we were to her animals. Do not be a party to it. Consider what God would have us do. This week my husband related the story of Daniel to me. Daniel  was captured by the Babylonians as a youth and immersed in their alien culture. He was required to eat the royal diet which was heavy on rich sweet meat. Daniel refused the diet knowing that his God would not be pleased. When Daniel asked the guard to give him and his friends only vegetables, the guard became afraid that Daniel and his friends by eating only vegetables and no meat would wither away and become physically feeble. The guard greatly feared the king would kill him for not feeding the captives the royal diet. But Daniel insisted and told the guard to test him and his friends by feeding them only vegetables for ten days and then see if they looked worse than the others who were eating the rich meats. And so the guard agreed and after ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthier than any of those eating the royal meat-filled diet.

Resisting meat, chicken, pork, lamb and all dairy products may seem like swimming upstream but we do not have to live as strictly as Daniel. As Christians we are free to eat anything so long as it does not hurt our brothers and sisters. Since daily meat-eating does have a negative impact, it would be wise to refrain from eating so much meat and dairy. Instead, start by joining Meatless Monday and learn how to cook a high nutrient vegetarian dish once per week. Or try to follow the Mediterranean diet which provides for small amounts of chicken and fish, a little cheese and yogurt and only a bit of meat every once in a while. You will feel better and you will rest easier.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Daniel 1:15 & 16

Soup and Song

Costs about $35 and worth every penny.

Costs about $35 and worth every penny.

Soup is an easy food to make. Use a base like broth or coconut milk, add some favorite vegetables, some spices, and some beans or other protein, and cook for several hours. I like to make soup in a crock pot.  For thick and creamy soups that have no dairy, add beans and at the end of cooking,  puree them with  an immersion blender.

Soup can be a healthy part of a diet if it doesn’t contain a lot of fats. Cream and cheese are ingredients found in popular, healthy-sounding soups like cream of tomato and broccoli cheddar. Even though they contain beneficial vegetables, the calories from cream and cheese quickly undermine the benefits of these vegetable soups. Even broth-based soups can contain a lot of animal fat and this builds up the saturated fat content of the soup. With all these fats and creams, it is hard to know what we get when ordering soup from a menu. Better to make our own, and though I have a lot to learn about soup, here is what I do know based on a healthy diet.

Instead of using cream and cheese, replace these ingredients with coconut milk, beans, and nut butters which are loaded with “good” fats.  Adding a scoop of baked sweet or white potato can help to thicken a soup. Carrot juice helps to sweeten soup, and coconut milk is excellent when flavored with curry. Tarragon tastes great with white beans, and cilantro with black beans.  Adding a few greens at the end of cooking can liven up the health benefits of any soup. Today it is snowing and I plan on making this simple soup: Broth, navy beans, cooked onions and garlic, and tarragon. Throw it all in the crock pot and cook on high for four hours or low all day. Throw in some greens just before serving.

Soup can be a real comfort food that is good for the body and singing can be comforting for the soul. Why is it that as we grow older we sing less and less? My daughter around age six used to go outside every day and sing to God about his beautiful flowers. She just made up her own song.

It is hard to stay sad when singing. It is a natural mood enhancer like running or meditation. Singing helps us to praise God in a manner that He deserves and likes. I love to sing the old hymns to Him, and the Psalms are full of songs to God. Pick one and start singing today. My husband and I went to hear Kathy Mattea a few days ago. She said it was tragic that some people are told at an early age that they can’t  sing. I agree. It is a lie. Everyone can sing. Praise for the singing, as Cat Stevens said.  God does not care if you are out of tune or if your song is made up and doesn’t rhyme. Sing to Him with gratitude in your heart and you will find you feel much better afterwards. Singing is a way of drawing close to Him.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord–Ephesians 5:19

True Hunger and Small Faith

One of the most surprising chapters in Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat for Health  book is the one on hunger. It starts out with a description of an eating regimen we can all relate to. This guy has an old-school healthy breakfast of a bagel and some flavored yogurt but by mid-morning he needs coffee because he feels listless with a mild headache. He goes on through the day always needing a little pick me up between meals to stave off these feelings. His meals are perfect Standard American Diet food (yogurt, white bread, creamy salad dressing, and pasta).  At the end of the day, we realize this guy has been eating sugar all day but it looks like healthy food.

These queasy feelings, headaches, and listlessness are what Dr. Fuhrman calls “toxic” hunger. After digestion the body goes into detox, removing any unhealthy substances we might have eaten with our food, like sugar or caffeine. It can make us feel sick and we habitually regard these detox feelings as hunger pangs. True hunger, however, does not make us feel sick like this. True hunger is a sensation in our throat, increased salivation, and an increase in taste so that food actually tastes better when we are hungry.

If every time we feel toxic hunger we throw more stimulants, sugar, salt, and fats into our mouths, we will never have much success on any diet. We feel sick if we don’t eat the food we are addicted to and so cutting down on portion size and counting calories becomes an overhwhelming battle of willpower in the midst of sick feelings. How can we ever win such a battle? It seems impossible.

A little knowledge is a powerful tool. I recommend Dr. Fuhrman’s book to really understand toxic hunger and what causes it.  The book also reveals that hunger is only satisfied when it meets four requirements: volume (eating enough to feel full), nutrients  (with an emphasis on the micronutrients found in vegetables), enough calories, and breaking all addictions so that we do not mistake detox feelings for hunger feelings and do not go looking for a quick sugar/salt/caffeine fix.

We all hunger in another way, too. We hunger to make some sense of this world and in seeking answers we are often brought to a spiritual place. Science has revealed an unseen world of atoms, neutrons, and powerful sources of energy.  Seeking the unseen world of energy by surrounding ourselves with energy sources like crystals and pyramid-shaped objects, or placing objects in patterns of energy can be spiritually fulfilling for us. Imagining peace and filling our minds with good thoughts helps us to feel more in control and in tune with our world.

Toxic spiritual hunger occurs when humans who are made to praise and worship God put too much faith into things like energy patterns, crystals, and rituals and not in the creator of these things, that is, our God, the God of Abraham and the father of Jesus Christ.  It is a simple additional thought, the next step so to speak, easily obtained with a little knowledge gained in scripture reading. True spiritual hunger is going one step further, getting out of the boat, and walking on water. Standing on the promises of God and not just the things God has created.

In the movie Monuments Men one of the actors goes into a soliloquy about art being a part of who we are, a part of our historical story, and an important part of our culture. Of course all of this is true but it seemed so meager to me when I understand art as a glorification of God who gifted men and women with talent and how those average men and women practiced their incredible god-given talent for the love and edification of others for the purpose of knowing God better and loving Him more. It is a simple additional thought that perhaps the script writer decided he couldn’t write and so he stopped short of saying the truth: that art glorifies God.

I often see toxic spiritual hunger at work in our world, this practice of stopping short of praising God, and just praising men, or worshipping God’s creation rather than God himself. Just a small faith in the promises of God and Christ’s offer of redemption can cause powerful ripples of transformation in us and in those around us if only we would take that first step. It is like in the movie when the Monuments Men courageously walk through darkness into a bright light. At first it is too bright to see, almost blinding. It is like that when we first hear the story of Jesus and all that he did, we cannot believe it. It is too beautiful, too bright to really believe (virgin birth, miracles, raised from the dead and walking around for days!). But then the eyes of the Monument Men adjust to the light and they begin to see all the treasures, the glorious works of art in front of them. These precious works God has given us through the talents of men to praise His holy name.

A small faith is just like that. We begin to hope that we can overcome those things that drag us down, that somehow God will truly enlighten us and heal us as a people. We begin to walk in that small faith of ours, we take our first step, and then our “spirit eyes” adjust and we see that the real energy is not in what is created, though there is that, but the really powerful energy is in our own faith in God’s very presence in and around us,  in others, and in his powerful word. God  himself has created a great work of art in us. And just like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others, God is faithful to finish it. So we must have hope and take that first step.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.–Jesus Christ, Matthew 17:20