Kind Words

bee-Recovered

I found this happy little bee in my backyard tumbling around in one of my roses, filling up on pollen and getting it all over himself like a little pig. The pollen he eats will be used to make honey for his hive. It is interesting that God uses this little guy’s food as a comparison to kind words. A kind word said to us at the right time can stay with us our entire lives, it can change a person’s whole attitude, and even direct their path in life. I turned the surrounding roses in this photo into stained glass to remind me that kind words in church are powerful. Encouraging one another and giving each other the benefit of the doubt, letting go of grudges, and forgiving each other seventy times seven produces the sweet fragrance of Christ that people long for. God may seem stern in scripture but there is no missing how very much He loves us. His kindness flows from Christ like a fountain of honey. How very important it is to be tender to our brothers and sisters in our own church, to love and care for them as Jesus cared for us.

Caring for Natural Oils and Natural Prayers

After one year, most oil should be thrown out.

After one year or less most oil, nuts, and seeds should be thrown out.

“What’s that fishy smell?” My friend wrinkled her nose at a whiff from the sunflower seeds. “They look yellow, but they still taste great.” The smell and color of these nuts reveal that they had spoiled but roasting and salting nuts can disguise the sharp rancid flavor.

Natural oils found in nuts, seeds, and whole grains are beneficial antioxidants. However, if left out too long in the air, heat, and sun they can become rancid. These spoiled oils have become oxidized themselves, losing their powerful health benefits. They are pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic even though we do not feel sick after eating them. To prevent foods from becoming rancid, store them in an airtight container and place in a cool and dark place like the refrigerator.

The health benefits of nuts, seeds, and whole grains is well-known but has caused a kitchen full of rancid foods. Because we are accustomed to the long-storage benefits of trans fats and refined foods in the past, these new monounsaturated and polyunsaturated foods are assumed to have the same long storage benefits. They do not.

Rancid oils have a stale, paint-like smell. Buy small containers of oil and store them in the refrigerator. Whole grains and flours also need to be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place like the refrigerator. Breads, crackers, and other whole grain baked foods will not last as long as their refined flour counterparts. Protection from air, light, and heat will slow down the oxidation of all oils. Throw out rancid food. You may lose a few pennies now but you will gain dollars later in good health.

Refined prayers that have been written down and edited can help us in times of need and stress when we are without words. I say the Our Father every day at school, once on Sunday, and sometimes throughout the week in my Holy Yoga exercise. It is the prayer Jesus Christ taught his disciples and one that is highly regarded as a structure for other prayers. Praying the Psalms can be a great comfort because they are filled with emotions that we find hard to express. One of my favorites is Psalm 51 and Psalm 23 is also a popular one, especially at funerals.

Praying a steady stream of heartfelt words can empower the Holy Spirit and bring comfort to us. Being honest in our prayers about our motives and expressing our true feelings can bring discernment and wisdom to our lives. It gives us a chance to give sober judgement to who we are and how much we need our Lord and Savior. We do not need to worry about condemning ourselves with honest prayers as God already knows our hearts and minds. He will lead us into the truth and light. Honest prayers spoken to God in secret are powerful and intimate.

Praying songs can be a way of rejoicing. Even if we are not feeling particularly joyful, songs can comfort us and bring us out of sadness. It is good to have the melody and words of songs in our thoughts throughout the day so that we are continually in prayer.

Prayers said aloud for others is a common practice. Listening to or publicly reciting memorized prayers requires concentration to prevent background thinking. Jesus admonishes long, wordy prayers that have little sincerity and are said aloud for others to think well of us. Singing contemporary music together without a worshipful attitude can seem brash and irreverent. Using King James version words like thee and thou can appear showy to young people and make them think God is some great-grandfather in the sky who has no real interest in their young, complicated lives. Changes in attitude to public prayers and songs come about when the listeners realize that it is not the beat or the old-fashioned word that counts but the sincerity of heart that matters. There are many ways to pray with sincerity and all of them are good.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Shortcuts and Dreams

My dog Roxy

My dog Roxy visited me last night.

“Which is the burger everyone loves the most?” I asked the woman at the farmers market. Her stand was new this year and to draw customers to her she had set up four tasting stations for her four different bean burgers. “The original is the one that got me started. It has lentils, rice, spinach, and a few other secret ingredients.” The words ‘secret ingredients’ hung in the air. I knew she was protecting her product. She didn’t want folks going home and making their own using her recipe. She needn’t bother to hide her ingredients from me though. I wasn’t buying her burgers because they tasted better than mine. They didn’t. I was buying her burgers because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making my own. Fresh, healthy food takes time to make, and I was looking for a shortcut.

Another new stand at my farmers market is Borekg’s red lentils. Lentils are easy to make but Borekg’s Mediterranean red lentils are already made fresh from her stove, not mine. All I have to do is scoop them out and roll them up in a lettuce leaf with a few drops of lemon juice and I have a unique appetizer for my guests with very little trouble or time. This stand has lots of different foods ready-made, fresh, and delicious.

When it comes to food preparation, if there is a shortcut, I take it. Lately, I have been using humus as my salad dressing. There are recipes all over the Internet for healthy salad dressings and I have a couple I really like but humus comes ready-made and it tastes great mixed in with fresh, crisp greens and vegetables. Another great product I use on my salad is Bobbi’s Tuscan White Bean Dip. It looks like a creamy ranch dressing but it has no dairy product listed in the ingredients and the flavor is very agreeable to me. The best part is that both these dressings are made from beans.

Last night in my dreams I spent some time with my dog who is in heaven. “She’s a ghost,” I would say to my friends as they came to my house and saw my dog. Roxy was young again, playful, and affectionate. One day I will see her in heaven but she just couldn’t wait so she took a shortcut and came to visit me in my dreams.

I imagine that when I go to heaven there will be some greeters. We have greeters at church, in fact I am one of them. All we do is smile, shake hands, and say welcome to anyone who walks in the door. In heaven, I will know my greeters. They will be all of my family and friends who have left this world and they will welcome me home with my Father God. Among them will be all my pets, and Roxy will lead them. She will come bounding up to me like she did in my dreams, and bow her head like she used to do when I hugged her, and lean against me, returning the hug in her gentle dog-like way. I have taken the shortcut to eternal life. I have not bought my way in with good deeds or by fulfilling prescribed rituals. I have not sought to enter into the Kingdom of God without wearing the robes my father gives me. Instead, I am clothed in Christ. I am robed in Him and hidden in His gracious and merciful love. Jesus Christ is my shortcut to heaven. Praise God that I do not have to try to get there on my own.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. …You are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.–Galatians 3:26-29

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

Nutritarian Oils and the Anointed

comparison

The stomach is full on 400 calories of salad but not nearly so with the same amount of oil or chicken

Healthy oils like olive, walnut, flax, and others are very dense foods with high calorie content. Using oils to dress a salad changes it from a low-calorie food to a fattening meal.  While a salad has a reputation as a side dish, one  with too much salad dressing (oil or creamy dairy fat) can render it more caloric than the main dish.

Most people want good-tasting food and salad is no exception. In addition, a little fat with any vegetable enhances nutritional absorption by our bodies. So how can we hang on to the low-calorie benefit of a salad and still have a tasty dressing to go with it and a few nutrient-absorbing fats?

Dr. Fuhrman encourages using the whole food in salads rather than the oil. That is, eat your salad with actual olives rather than dousing it in olive oil. Sprinkle a few walnuts on your salad or ground flax seeds. Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds give your salad some staying power throughout the day.

In his books, Dr. Fuhrman has lots of salad dressing recipes, including ones that call for a small amount of oil.  Start a salad dressing with a nut butter like tahini, peanut, or cashew; liquify it in a blender with a juicy fruit  like lemons or oranges; add water (coconut water, broth, vinegar, etc.), and some spices. Homemade salad dressing will last about five days in the refrigerator.

My favorite dressing is  1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup tahini, 3 organic oranges peeled and seeds extracted, 4 cloves of garlic, and 1/8 cup Braggs Aminos for a salty taste or a couple of pitted dates for a sweeter taste, all blended and thinned with water to a consistency you like.

A salad that has plenty of high oil content foods like avocados, walnuts, seeds, or olives needs very little dressing. A tablespoon of humus or tabbouleh or bruschetta/salsa will do nicely if you are not up to making home-made dressings.

My salad starts with arugula. To it I add mushrooms cooked and soaked in Braggs Aminos because I  love that taste and some seaweed for mineral content. I also cook organic frozen corn and add it. Other additions are lots of red onions, broccoli, cauliflower, black beans, avocado (a great healthy fat addition that aids in nutrient absorption), carrots, red peppers, black olives and sesame seeds (both high in fat and the seeds add calcium).  This salad is heavy in cancer-fighting nutrients (cruciferous vegetables) and it keeps me going all day. I look forward to eating it and even though it is a pain to add all that stuff, my husband and I usually make enough for five lunches on Sunday afternoon so we don’t have to spend an hour in the kitchen every day.

Oil is used in religious ceremonies to anoint someone for a specific task or for healing them. Jesus was anointed by women with perfumed oil three times, and once with the addition of tears. Jesus knew that he was the chosen sacrificial lamb for all of our sins, he knew he was the ultimate healer of mankind, he knew that these anointings were prophetic actions inspired by God’s powerful love in action in these women, and he knew that the women and their actions would be remembered throughout time.

However, each time Christ was anointed the people watching criticized the anointing. Once because the anointer was a prostitute (described in the Bible as a sinful woman), and the other  two times as overly extravagant acts whose worth could have been better accounted for in coinage to the poor. Each time Jesus corrected his critics because he saw God’s powerful affirmation of his own imminent and sacrificial death, and through these gracious acts of love he saw a sign of God’s redemptive power.

The beauty of these anointings points to the extravagant love God shows for us through His death on the cross, for God and Jesus are one and the same. Such beauty can be contemplated for an entire lifetime but at first realization it brings us to tears of repentance. Thereafter, God responds with His own anointing by giving us His Holy Spirit. This Spirit anoints us with power to become everlasting creatures no longer wedded to sin which leads to death, but to freedom from sin’s enslaving powers and to acts of love like these exemplary women. We can only be awed by God’s great mercy reflected in the actions of these women. I often think of the beauty of Christ’s love for a poor sinful woman abused and used by the world who washed Christ’s feet with her own tears of gratitude.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

GM Food Labeling and A Christian Perspective

 

Ever wonder why genetically modified (GM) food ingredients are not labeled? Why can’t I go into the grocery store and be certain that I am not buying genetically modified foods? GM foods have been with us for twenty years. Since that time, food allergies have skyrocketed, and so have many diseases. Cancer has now become the number one killer of children. Could there be a correlation?Many people think so but it is hard to prove when the suspect foods have not been labeled. Privately funded research cannot be done on patented products unless permission is given by the patent holder. GM seeds are patented and the patent holders are avoiding testing and labeling. This is because, given the choice, most of us would not choose GM foods because of the risks they pose.

The little testing that has been done proves that GM foods cause gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation that can be cured by switching to a non-GM diet.  Diets that encourage organic produce and meat, chicken, and dairy from non-GM feed, and avoid all processed products will alleviate GI problems and many food allergy problems because GM foods are automatically eliminated by these  restrictions.

GM seeds are Round-up ready seeds that can be soaked in the herbicide and not die like the weeds around them. Food soaked in Round Up is exactly what we are eating when choose GM foods. Is it any mystery why the folks who created GM seeds are the same ones who profit from the sale of Round Up? And, can eating grain soaked in Round Up be good for us? Is it any wonder why it might cause a skyrocketing increase in stomach problems, allergies, and cancer?

Choose organic produce, especially foods with organic soy, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar beets–otherwise, these ingredients are most certainly GM; and choose any Non-GM labeled product. Eat grass-fed beef, organic chicken and dairy products. Children are most at risk of developing allergies and GI problems. Protect them from GM foods.

The Christian church and all those who love the God of Abraham are fully armed to combat evil in this world. There is no reason for those who love Christ to profit from anything that is making others sick or taking away their livelihood and harming the earth. Farming has become big business and local and small farms are being swallowed up by industrial farms to reap great profit. GM seeds and big volume, one-crop farming, and are causing us to lose the variety of seeds that will sustain us through all types of weather conditions. Our soil is being drenched with poison and one-crop GM farming is depleting it.

The Kingdom of God is not merely words, but power. Let us use our power to buy from local organic farmers and stand ready to demand GM labeling on all food products. Greed for money and power are often at the center of evil. Though we may not be able to discern it in others, we can at least pray that we are not tempted by it or used to promote it unawares. Pray daily for wisdom and discernment so that what seems benign on the outside can be fully known for its evil on the inside. And take heart, for our God is mighty to save us.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:10

 

Our Meat Supply and The Bread of Life

Eat grass-fed cattle for better health.

Eat grass-fed meats for better health. (Photo: Smith Meadows Farm)

The cattle industry is taking the heat for livestock feed-additives that increase weight gain. Hormones, antibiotics (which also combat disease), and newer beta-agonist drugs added to cattle feed can increase the final weight of an animal at slaughter time. Since fatter cattle result in more money, the temptation to do this is great and, as you might suspect, the practice is common.

Aside from these additives, corn-fed beef, which also results in fatter cattle than grass-fed, contains genetically modified corn which is able to withstand more pesticides. This logically results in more pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and, now, beta-agonist drugs in our meat supply. None of this is good for us and our cattle are showing signs of stress and are showing up at the slaughterhouse in less than optimal health.

Organic, grass-fed beef has none of this and it contains healthy omega 3s that corn-fed beef does not. If there is an opportunity to buy products from grass-fed livestock, it is a far wiser choice than conventional meats and dairy products. The milk takes some getting used to but the other grass-fed products are more tasty than conventional products.

When it comes to money, both the buyer and seller have a choice, and it seems like the demand for grass-fed products is growing. Consumers are becoming wiser about the healthfulness of grass-fed livestock. The more healthful food we buy, the cheaper it will become and the healthier we will all be, including our livestock.

Like the food industry and all the different choices we have, religion offers a smorgasbord of worship opportunities and belief systems. Some folks enjoy traditional church services while others want a more contemporary setting with upbeat music, light shows and Powerpoint presentations. Walking into a traditional Catholic church is a different experience than walking into a traditional protestant church or a contemporary community church. Some Christian religions center on the death of Christ and dress in black for mourning Him as we all await His return. Others focus on the life-giving Holy Spirit and dress the church in red carpets and beautiful handmade tapestries. Still others eschew all decorations as distractions, even words are rarely used. How can one Christ be the orgin of such diversity?

The understanding of who Christ is and how to worship Him is a very personal journey. The call to evangelize the world can become a conflicting command where one form of Christianity simply evangelizes the other. Divisions, arguments, and bitter resentments can form in a church and cause painful splits, broken friendships, and closed minds. St. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthian church: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?”

Today, Paul might say “I follow Wesley,” or “I follow Calvin,” or “I follow St. Peter.” In fact, we are all following only one: Christ. If one interprets scripture with a different understanding than we do, whichever one is right shall be made known in the end. It is a sincere contrition that Christ seeks more than who is right about this or that. For now, all the great Christian fathers know the same thing: Christ loved us and gave himself up for us that we might live with Him forever, and in this understanding, we participate in a communion service of all our brother and sisters. When we partake of the bread and wine of Christ, we must examine ourselves, our motives, and our faith that Christ in his future coming will be able to unite us all just as He promised. For there is no one that understands completely.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12