Every year we go to the Outer Banks, a barrier island off the east coast. Our house’s worth is measured by its distance from the ocean as in oceanfront, ocean view, one block away, two blocks away, etc. I never tire of the sudden sight of the magnificent ocean as we climb the steps over the dunes, and there it is. The wind picks up and the sound of the waves is volumes louder just as we make our way over the dunes. Families litter the beach staking their claim for the day with beach tents, chairs and umbrellas, and sand castles. This year we brought my dog and stayed in a little house on the sound side that allows pets, many blocks away from the beach. The house wasn’t much but the beauty of the sound in my backyard took my breath away. In all the times we visited this area, I’d never come to look at the sound. It took the love of my furry little friend to force me to turn my attention from the magnificence of the ocean to see the quiet beauty of the sound. Love will do that to us. Love opens us up to new experiences and possibilities we may not have otherwise considered. It reveals the deep and hidden things we never saw before. When I think of love, I think of God because God is love and the most beautiful, deep and hidden thing He has revealed is His son Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of God’s love for us.
“I feel like I have a hangover,” my girlfriend said the next morning, although she’d had no alcohol to drink the night before. Instead, we attended a “bring a dessert” dance. We drank coffee and ate as much dessert as we wanted and danced the night away. Her sluggishness and headache the next morning were due to a high sugar intake the night before.
A life of sweets, candies, sugary drinks, white flour breads and cakes can add pounds quicker than any other ingredient. Sugar turns to fat, sugar feeds cancer, sugar is addictive, and sugar is a killer. It doesn’t really matter how you take your sugar: honey, agave, white refined sugar, fructose, fruit juice, white rice, just to name a few, sugar should be eaten sparingly. Lately, I’ve allowed a little slippage and that is not good. I will need to reign in my sugar monster and put her back in her cage.
A good way to begin cutting back on sugar is replacing it with fruit. Fruit has a lot of natural sugar in it but it also has a lot of fiber which slows the process of sugar absorption, and that reduces the likelihood of the body storing the sugar as fat. Smoothies made from frozen fruit and almond milk with a little nut butter can be a healthy substitute for ice cream. Healthy Girl’s Kitchen blog has a cookie recipe made from bananas, dried fruit, and rolled oats. These healthier choices taste great and will not put weight on us like sugary drinks and desserts.
When we discover a few extra pounds, we examine what we’ve been eating that might have contributed to the weight gain, and then we revise our diets. Our spiritual health can be the same. When we find ourselves thinking negatively, it may be time to revise our spiritual diets. Anxiety, worry, fear, and other negative thoughts are combated by prayer and scripture. The New Testament is not called the Good News for no reason. The message of Christ is so beautiful, so uplifting, so incredibly full of loving kindness from God to us, that fears and worries melt away. We are reassured by the loving words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, and reading the epistles or some of the Psalms helps to bring perspective to our thoughts. Giving praise to God in our prayers for all we have been blessed with turns us away from negative thoughts and into people of gratitude who find joy and contentment in life. Christ encourages us to examine our ways, our thoughts, and our relationships and consider whether they give glory to God. There are many concerns throughout the day, but rest assured that God can help with each and every one of them.
Cast all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
“It looks like something out of the sea,” my husband picked up the vegetable displayed on the farmer’s stand. I had seen romanesco cauliflower only once before when my daughter brought one home from Mom’s Market. “Yeah, like coral.” The green spiral cone shapes of the romanesco cauliflower make it beautiful to look at as well as eat.
Even though my cauliflower mash recipe completely smashes out the fractal beauty of the vegetable, at least it keeps its pretty Chartreuse color. It’s delicious. In fact, I think it will be on my Thanksgiving Day table. Here’s how you cook it: cut off a whole head of cauliflower buds. Throw away the core center. Dump the buds in a steamer with sliced onions or shallots and cook till soft. (Use your own judgement on how much onion or shallots you want–I put in just one shallot bulb.) Mash it up with a potato masher and some roasted garlic cloves (I added about four cloves), about an 1/8th cup of cashew butter, and 1/4 C coconut manna. That simple and incredibly delicious.
Cauliflower is a pretty bland vegetable but boy can it fight. It is a powerhouse of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals. Sometimes our prayers for others can seem pretty bland, too. Not every prayer is a spirit-filled literary masterpiece but they sure do have a lot of power. Praying for people is a good way of loving them from afar. Many times people’s names just pop into my thoughts while I am praying, and later on I find that the impulse to pray for that person was a timely one. So many times this has happened to me, that if I think of someone who I haven’t thought of for a long time, I take it as clue to pray for them. I think many of the people I have known throughout my life will be surprised in heaven when they find out how often I have prayed for them. In my own opinion, I think that God knows who has feelings of true love for whom, and that He uses the powerful love we feel for those special people in our lives to bring blessings to them. In this way we can truly say, no love is lost.
I have a friend who was actually awakened from her sleep with the urge to pray for her son! The next morning she got news of his perilous situation and that he had thankfully, survived it. We don’t have to say a lot of words, or even any words. All we have to do is lift the person up to God, thanking Christ for His amazing love and for that love to surround him/her. How great and grand is our glorious God who counts the prayers of people like us worthy to be received by Him. We are honored and privileged above all to be included in His loving blessings to other people. Nothing makes me feel more like a child of God than to hear that my bland cauliflower prayers have been received and answered by the almighty God. God takes our simple prayers and adds the beauty and flavors of His blessings to pour out upon those for whom we have prayed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16(b)
“Well, they both start with the letter B,” my husband suggested the title and gave me the segue I needed. Then he said, “My work here is done,” and left me with a blank page. Sometimes I just need a little push to get started.
Butternut squash is everywhere. The harvest is on and there is nothing more tasty than butternut squash soup. My girlfriend gave me a wonderful recipe that I will share with you. “The secret,” she said and immediately my attention was hers–I love secrets, “is to roast the squash first.” So, I peeled it, chopped it into one inch squares, and sprinkled it with some garam masala and a little extra cinnamon (or whatever you like). I also added an onion and, per my girlfriend’s second secret, an apple. I roasted all three for about 30-40 minutes until everything was soft, and then I dumped it all into a pot with some chicken broth (or vegetable if you like). I used my handy-dandy soup mixer tool that I just can’t live without to make a smooth and creamy mixture. It was pretty thick, so I added some coconut milk to make it less stewy and more soupy. I heated it all up to just about boiling and then served it with pepper and salt on the table. It was great. The apple gave it a very nice flavor. I used a red apple but my girlfriend suggested that a green one might be best. I will have to try that next time.
Something else that seems to be everywhere these days is breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month, so everyone is wearing pink, even our football players. Dr. Fuhrman has a bone to pick with the breast cancer awareness folks. He seems to think that it should be breast cancer prevention, as almost everyone is already “aware” of how the incidents of breast cancer are growing. He says this increase is due to our poor diet and, as you probably know, I agree with him. A high nutrient diet can help prevent breast cancer and many other cancers and diseases as well. He has said this and now the Nutritional Research Foundation is conducting a ten-year test to prove it. You can be part of the test if you are following his diet. The test hopes to prove that a high nutrient diet will indeed prevent breast cancer for many people. Let’s hope that he is right!
This cause and effect way of eating for good health is not new. What is new is all the processed foods. The cause and effect of eating heavily processed foods is poor health. The Beatitudes offer another cause and effect for the health of our spiritual lives. Jesus Christ gave us these blessings in the Sermon on the Mount, which is just another way of saying that he was giving a sermon on a hilltop. This is what He said in the Book of Matthew:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The cause and effect of pursuing these divine blessings is the way to happiness. Of course, it is not easy to admit we are spiritually bankrupt without Christ, or to be compassionate, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, peaceful, or courageous enough to stand against the evil in this world as he did, just as it is not easy to stay on Dr. Fuhrman’s diet. But, at least now we know the two secrets to good health and spiritual well-being.
“So I see that your eggs are produced from grass fed chickens. Does that mean they are omega 3 eggs?” The farmer at our local market’s quizzical look edged with annoyance told me he did not concern himself with the omega content. “Sure they’re grass fed but we supplement with high quality feed or they’d never lay enough eggs.” I pointed to the carton,”Look, it says they are.” He shook his head and glanced at the folks lined up behind me who were anxious to buy more than just a half dozen eggs. “I don’t know anything about the omega. We reuse other folks’ cartons.” I took my half dozen and hoped for the best.
What the farmer at our market had not cared to realize is that the omega 3 content in eggs and meat is two to five times higher if the animal is grass fed, and in better balance with the omega 6 content. Corn and soy meal feed can throw off the beneficial balance of omega 3 and 6 which should be about one-to-one or one-to-two. It is one of the many reasons why some doctors and dietitians recommend omega 3 eggs and grass-fed animal products.
Our diets are high in the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid but it is not totally due to eating conventional (corn and soy meal fed) meat, chicken, and eggs. The imbalance also comes from other saturated fats and processed oils. Switching from saturated fats like butter and cream to unsaturated ones like olive oil and nut creams is the first step in a healthy diet. There are many oils to choose from: soybean, cottonseed, corn, vegetable (usually a mix of these three), olive, and flax seed oil, just to mention of few. Each of these polyunsaturated oils contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are necessary for our overall health, but not all oils are equally beneficial. Vegetable oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil are all poor choices since they are too high in omega 6 fatty acids. These processed oils are also used in most processed foods because they are so cheap. Consuming high amounts of omega 6 by cooking with these oils and by eating processed foods, can produce inflammation in the body and contribute to all sorts of illnesses: heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and various cancers.
Instead, use oil that is low in omega 6 like canola oil. Canola oil is good for cooking because it can withstand medium-high cooking temperatures. Flax seed (very high in omega 3) and olive oil are good choices for recipes that do not call for cooking, for example, most salad dressings. In addition, eat foods high in omega 3 like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, and caviar), nuts and seeds, and leafy green vegetables, to improve the body’s overall intake of omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.
Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet and is now used to mean “the last in a series.” God used it in a pairing with the first letter of the Greek alphabet, the Alpha. He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” He said it three different times in Revelations. The first is his proclamation that he is who he is, was, and will be. The second is that he is the beginning and the end, and then Jesus finally says that he is the first and the last.
Between the alpha and the omega are all the other letters that in various combinations form the finite words of scripture about God. People from every age have spent quite a deal of time contemplating these words and trying to illuminate and understand the true God. Jesus is determined by St. John to have embodied the very word of God. His actions here on earth, the words he said, the stories he told, and the incredible miracles he did have been recorded and meditated upon for incalculable amounts of time by those trying to discern who God is and what He wants from us. Who can count the number of books written about scripture, either to teach, preach, or encourage? Despite the small amount of scripture that we do have, we have certainly gotten a lot out of it.
However, God’s most important message is fully revealed in the life of Jesus Christ and the scripture we do have about him is sufficient to bring anyone to faith. Jesus is the extraordinary work of the Alpha and the Omega. Nothing is known of God that he has not chosen to make known through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the first and last expert on himself and on us, his creatures who live humbly in grace thanks be to Jesus Christ and who live for his everlasting glory.
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were everyone of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25
“I never fry with oil. I use broth or a little water.” My girlfriend recently declared war against her bathroom scale and her growing wardrobe, growing in size that is, from an 8 to a 12. She had it with the disappointing reflection in her mirror, with her decreasing health and declining feeling of wellbeing, and she was sharing with me one of her secrets to her success: no more oil.
Imagine a tablespoon of oil. Now imagine a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan and compare it to the amount we really use. Imagine a tablespoon of salad dressing. Now compare that to the amount we use on our salads. Most likely what we actually use is more like two tablespoons, maybe even three. Oil is calorie dense and one of the most likely contributors to our increasing weight gain. Get rid of the oil and lose weight, gain health, and feel better.
Cuisines across all nations use oil. I recently experimented with a cookie recipe using teff flour, a North African cereal grain, and a half a cup of oil, among other ingredients. I just wanted the benefit of the calcium in the teff flour so I left out the sugar but I never considered the oil. The recipe turned out nicely and I started eating it for breakfast. After a few days, I noticed I had gained weight and, knowing the only thing I changed in my diet was the teff flour recipe, I realized that the oil in it was the most likely culprit.
Like salt, oil can enhance the flavors in a recipe. Oil is also one of the tools used to enhance the flavors in processed foods. The more oil, the more taste and the more fat. Dr. Furhman has a neat little diagram of a stomach filled with 400 calories of oil compared with 400 calories of greens and vegetables. The difference is striking as the stomach is quite empty on 400 calories of oil, while quite full with 400 calories of vegetables. The point is that we are still hungry after eating 400 calories of oil because our stomach are still empty, while they are completely full after eating 400 calories of greens and vegetables.
Oil is rich and eating fried or oil-laden foods causes us to overeat. Too much of this type of eating can sicken us, give us stomach aches, and over a period of a lifetime, create some pretty serious illnesses for our heart and arteries. Oil is fat and though some are more healthful than others, a little oil goes a long way. Think one tablespoon; not three.
A little faith can go a long way too. Faith, like oil, enhances the flavors in life. But how do we begin to have faith in our scientific world? People often scoff at religion for its fairytale-like stories of miracles and heaven where angels sing in the clouds. How do we take the historical Jesus seriously? Just wondering if he really existed has stumped some folks. However, virtually all historians agree that he did exist. The historical events in the New Testament line up with other historical texts, and references to Jesus can be found in texts other than the Bible. Making the assumption that Jesus actually lived is not much of a leap. A lot of experts agree that he did walk the earth once upon a time.
But what a walk. Accounts of Jesus in the Bible have him walking on water, feeding thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread and two fish, and even raising people from the dead. And healing? It seems like that’s all Jesus did wherever he went. Is believing all that accredited to faith?
I’d say faith begins with believing that Jesus lived and then died specifically as a sacrifice for sinful man. That’s not much of a leap either since crucifixion in Roman times was a common punishment for crimes, and in Jesus’ case, for blasphemy–claiming to be God.
So imagine Jesus who was a good man by anyone’s standards, letting himself be punished for crimes he did not commit, the crime of hatred toward him, and declaring right up to the end that he was dying for the very folks who were killing him. Now imagine Jesus embodied the soul of God who willingly endured a physically cruel and ultimately fatal punishment to save us from an equally cruel and fatal spiritual punishment so that He could love us forever, even while we were hating him. Going from the first image to the second is the first leap of faith, a fairly large one because it requires the acknowledgement that we are prone to evil and deserve punishment.
The belief that the historical death of Jesus met all the requirements for God’s justice against the evil in this world will flavor our lives with joy and comfort because we can approach God in peace and speak to Him as our own dear Father. Acting out that tiny bit of faith does enormous things to our lives, but getting there requires a good look in the mirror.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
“Can I get you something to drink?” The flight attendant had her hand at the ready on a can of soda and I felt like a puppy at feeding time. What had I gotten myself into? I was returning from a week at Honduras Outreach, a church-related mission ranch in rural Honduras that had served me soda at every meal in every flavor of my childhood, my favorites being cream and orange. It occurred to me I was addicted to soda after only a week of drinking it. Yikes! I asked the flight attendant for water and drown my sorrows.
My second grade class will tell you there’s nothing wrong with a soda every once in a while and I have to agree. For me, too many rules take away too many pleasures in life, and if soda is something you’ve grown to love, perhaps the new “home sodas” are an answer.
I have Soda Stream. A CO2 cylinder squirts compressed air into a bottle of water I screw into the machine. It allows me to make club soda at home and eliminates the environmental problem of buying plastic bottles of sparkling water. It comes with soda syrup I can add if I want soda–they have all flavors and you can add a little or none at all :). The serving size contains only 8 grams of sugar compared to 20+ grams in the store-bought brands, and does not contain high fructose syrup. The process is very easy and quick and when a cylinder runs out, I can exchange it for a full one. Not a bad deal for this little puppy.
Although drinking soda every day is not ideal, the power of addiction to it can make us want to give up on diets. But making soda at home is at least better than store-bought sodas. The same is true with many habits and weaknesses in life, we may not be strong enough to eliminate them fully but reducing the power for harm is a good strategy.
Religion can be the same way. Guilt over repetitive sins, a big mistake kind of sin, or weaknesses can make us want to turn away from God, to give up, or just make us plain sad all the time. Christ, who is the constant and final sacrifice for all our sins past, present, and future, can reduce the guilt and sadness we find when we realize we are not perfect. Because Christ has opened the door to God and given us freedom from sin, we have the power to worship God with joy and thanksgiving instead of fear of retaliation for what we’ve done. And this joy is constant, it is not a one-time deal. God’s grace goes on and on and never stops. When we can come to God as a sinner and know that He still loves us and always will, then we have found Him, the Christ, the one who loves us just as we are.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
“Have you heard of teff?” I asked my brother-in-law. He’s one of my favorite foodies. I can always count on Joe to serve up something I’ve never tasted before. “It’s a grain from Africa that has lots of calcium.”
Teff is new to me but is actually an ancient grain that has been around for thousands of years. It’s a food-hottie of late not only because one serving provides ten percent of our daily needs for calcium, 7 percent for protein, and 14 percent for iron, but it is naturally gluten free. For someone on a wheat-free diet, teff is real find.
Teff is versatile too. It comes as a whole grain that can be cooked as a hot breakfast or added to stews and breads. As a flour it can be used for almost anything: veggie burgers, pancakes, cookies, breads, muffins, etc. It is often coupled with cinnamon and maple sugar to give it a nutty sweet taste. One drawback is the price. It is a few dollars more than our more familiar grains and flours, but the expense is worth it.
Our bodies love healthy foods and once we begin to eat more healthfully, it is easy to tell this. We feel energized, full but not bloated, and the extra pounds start pouring off. It is easy to lose extra weight by making a diet of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. When we first begin eating like this our vision of what it can do for us and how much better we can feel is limited by our lack of experience. However, the way we eat is a habit and habits can be changed. The better we feel after a healthful meal often compels us to make our next meal a healthful one, too. Concentrate less on giving up unhealthy foods and more on adding healthful foods into our meals. Is it hard to give up soda? Try drinking more fruit smoothies instead of denying all sodas. Is it hard to give up chips and snack food? Eat more beans which are much more satisfying and the hunger for snack food will diminish.
God loves us in much the same way. It is hard to begin trusting God because we lack experience and our realization of God’s love for us is so small. Even when we read the wonderful promises and hope for the future written in scripture, we skim right over it and concentrate more on the do’s and don’ts. Like diet rules, the do’s and don’ts are easier for us to grasp a hold of and control. We are more comfortable with structure like this and at the end of the day we can judge our successes.
Unfortunately, perfection is the goal of the do’s and don’ts and sets us up as a failure because we rarely achieve it. Try putting more God into your day just as you put more vegetables into it. Simply spending time with God will open our eyes to the amazing love He has for us. It is God’s love that we feel when we pray to Him and which compels us to spend more and more time with Him. After a while, we begin to cherish His presence in our lives and because we love Him, we begin to seek ways to please Him. We will never achieve perfection, not in our spiritual lives or in our physical lives, but we will achieve a transformation that will lead us to a greater vision of both.
[I pray] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“I’ll have a green smoothie for breakfast,” my weekend guests ordered the night before. “What about eggs? Don’t you want eggs for breakfast?” I just bought a dozen fresh from a local farmer at the market and I was excited about cheating a little, not that eggs are particularly “cheating,” but the butter and cheese I was planning to add to them would definitely land them in that category. Eggs for breakfast sounded great to me. “No, no, we want a green smoothie,” they insisted. They all wanted to try it and even though my sister later acquiesced to an egg or two, I let her off the hook the next morning and gave her what she really wanted–the green smoothie.
Smoothies are a cinch to make if you have a good blender. Throw in some bananas and other fruit with some almond milk (or soy, or cow’s milk) and power up the blender. If you want a thick smoothie, use less milk, Kefir, or plain yogurt. If you want a thinner textured smoothie use coconut water or fruit juice (maybe dilute it with water to lower the sugar content). That’s really all there is to it and to make it green, just throw in some kale, or spinach, or even romaine will work–or use a mixture of greens to get even more nutrients. I also add some ginger, flax-seed, turmeric, and matcha powdered green tea for a more healthful variety. Using frozen fruit will make the smoothie more refreshing in the hot summer months, and beware that some fruits like blueberries will turn your green smoothie brown. For my guests I made a healthful variety with flax seeds and ginger, bananas, mango, spinach and almond milk. Both mango and bananas have a high sugar content which I thought my guests would enjoy. Smoothies made with low sugar content tend to reveal more of the flavor of the greens which is not bad but may not be the best bet for folks who are trying it for the first time.
Having a green smoothie for breakfast is really like eating a small salad and some fruit, something that is unusual for an American breakfast. I continue to hang onto about a quarter of a cup of granola first thing in the morning. It helps sweeten the coffee I also drink. If I am going to have a green smoothie, I usually drink it mid-morning. One day I plan on giving up that coffee and granola but it’s been a real struggle for me.
Religion is also a struggle for me. There are so many different theologies in the Christian religion and I have been exposed to many churches: Catholic, Church of Christ, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed. It is not easy but God in many ways will remain a mystery since He is not like men or women, He does not think like we do, and He is more loving and greater than anything we can imagine. So, of course we will always struggle to know Him. Add to that other two religions about Him, Jewish and Muslim, and all their factions, and we’ve got a real mix of understanding of who the great I AM really is. However, it is interesting to note that in all the religions, and even pagan religions, most will agree that we are to love one another, certainly this is true in the Christian religion. The fact that we so often fall short of this is proof that we all struggle in our faith. The road of faith and trust is not smooth. We struggle to understand what God wants from us and we are tormented by the fact that trying to put the Almighty Creator of the Universe into our small brain of understanding is never really going to happen.
Love, however, can happen. God’s loving presence is always there for us. It can be so overpowering that we tell ourselves that God couldn’t possibly love us quite that much. He would not favor us over others. Why would God give us so many material blessing and almost nothing to someone else? And so we struggle even with His show of love.
But this is a skewed understanding because God’s presence is worth more than any material blessing. When I visit with those who have barely a home to live in, I see that joy does not come from material things but from the love of God and that He is quite generous in providing that love. People who are rich in material things often assume it is these “things” that bring joy and that without them no one can be happy. And so we can feel guilty and confused by what we see as God’s favoritism.
In fact, God’s favor is shown by His presence in our lives, our trust in Him, and the joy that comes from faith. If we have material wealth, God has given it to us to share with our children, our families, our neighbors, and our friends. Opportunities to offer hospitality and charitable giving abound in church ministries and missions. Though we may always struggle to fully know our God, His love for us and our love for others will make all our faith journeys a little smoother.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“Sugar feeds cancer,” she wore a kind of frank-looking expression, a sum-it-all-up in a few words kind of expression. I’d not heard her words of wisdom until after I’d already been treated for cancer, but they struck me to the quick. Sugar, I thought! Not my good friend sugar! Yes, in every form sugar feeds cancer. It could be refined white sugar so prevalent in processed foods, raw cane sugar, agave, honey, even fruit and fruit juice. Sugar is actually bad for most things: cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, lethargy, blah, blah, blah. So, plain and simple, it is a wise thing to reduce our overall sugar consumption.
We tend to make getting rid of sugar in our diets very complicated. We use substitute sugar replacements or some type of natural sugar like honey or agave. Stevia is the new sugar substitute that has some positive health claims. However, using these “better options” does nothing for reducing our appetite for sweet foods, and sometimes can even make it worse. Sugar substitutes tend to rev-up a taste for sweetness.
The recommended daily amount of sugar for adults is about twenty grams or nine teaspoons which is not very much. Just one sugary drink can put us over this limit. Replacing what we eat on a daily basis with foods very low in sugar can reduce our overall dependence on sugar. Choose to eat more vegetables than fruits. Skip white rice, bread, and pasta (our bodies process sugar from these foods) and eat greens and beans and a smaller portion of whole grain foods. Use unsweetened almond or soy milk in smoothies instead of fruit juices or milk and yogurt (these contain milk sugars). Instead of using sugar and sugar substitutes, use fabulously sweet fruits like dates, bananas and mangoes to sweeten smoothies and desserts, and healthy fruit juices like carrot juice for soups. It is still sugar but our bodies are so much better at processing natural sugars and it reduces our desire for bakery foods and other sweet confections that are best saved for special occasions. Withdraw symptoms from sugar are miserable: headaches, stomach huger feelings, digestive discomforts, dizziness, a weak and shaky feeling and/or just an overwhelming malaise. It’s the body’s way of saying, “This is hurting me.”
The same sick feelings and even the same diseases we attribute to too much sugar occur with too much stress. Stress is the flight or fight feeling we get when we are under pressure and at its foundation is fear: fear of failing, fear of losing a job, fear of getting mugged, fear of losing our friends, fear of divorce, fear of consequences, fear of dying, fear of blah, blah, blah. We fret and worry over things we have done and said, over disappointments in life, and outcomes of our reckless actions. We mess up time and again–even over the same stupid stuff, or we watch the people we love suffer from our own bad choices. We get to the point where we just can’t function as well as we used to under this constant stress and guilt. God tells us to “fear not” and “cast all our anxieties on Him” but can we?
Those feelings of fear and worry, of guilt and self-reckoning though are not brought on by our own wisdom. When we actually see how far we fall from perfect, it is a gift of discernment from God. It is the kindness of God that leads us to where we can see that we have messed up. We know something is wrong. It occurs at the beginning of repentance and trust. It is the proud and guiltless person who is lost, not the one who sees his error and is sickened with fear, worry and anxiety. Those humble folks who know they will never measure up are the ones that belong to Him. God is calling us: It is a simple as that. God has made us this way, plain and simple but we make ourselves very complicated. Forgiveness is not something we earn; it is a gift and it starts with that sick, I’ve-really-messed-up-this-time feeling. It is like the little boy who falls and suddenly sees he’s made of flesh and blood because it is pouring out of a wound, that jumps up and goes running to his father for comfort.
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” — Jesus, Mark 2:17