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.

Sugar and Plain and Simple

vegetables

Eat more vegetables and less sugar.

“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

Habits that Hurt and A God that Heals

My girlfriend gave me this Chia Pudding recipe.

Chia Pudding

“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. There’s something inside me that keeps me going back to the same old bad foods, the same old over-eating, the same old indulgences. I hate it and how will I stop?” A bad habit can live inside us like a bad friend who shows up at our doorstep each day. We groan, “How can I get rid of this guy?”

Fats, sugar, and salt are addictive and if we keep going back to eating food that is not good for us, we know that we are in the habit of it. To break it, replace it with good food that is really tasty. The key word is “tasty”. Laying out a bowl of celery and carrot sticks is not going to kick it unless you are a rabbit.

Eating well takes time and planning. We have to really get into it and prepare for those times when we want to indulge ourselves. For me, this seems to be every weekend. I can get through the week without much of a problem. I am busy working and have evening plans but when the weekend comes, I want to relax and enjoy my time off. Eating delicious fun food is a big part of what I enjoy over the weekend.

Popcorn has always been my go-to snack food but there are lots of other snack foods that won’t break the diet bank. Use lettuce or collard leaves to hold chopped vegetables mixed with good fats like guacamole and seasoned with herbs and spices, or rice and beans topped with a spicy sauce.  Collard greens can be split and rolled up like cigars. Lettuce leaves are more like cups.

If you like soda, try replacing it with a fruit smoothie made with juiced watermelon. If you are into cakes and pies, indulge in this  delicious chia pudding recipe my girlfriend gave me. Take a small custard cup and line the bottom with banana slices. Sprinkle about three tablespoons of chia seeds over the bananas, add a few raisins, and fill it with almond milk. Let it set over night to thicken, then stir, and enjoy. Frozen peeled bananas is another great treat for the sweet tooth in you. Peel and cut into thick slices to freeze them. Eat them like candy.

Taking a little time and effort to plan healthy snacks can be fun, a lot more fun than grabbing the nearest bag of taste-sensation foods like chips and dip. Bags of snack foods might be quick and easy but they are made to give your mouth a burst of flavor not nutrition, they easily cause over-eating (“You can’t eat just one,” as they say), and add extra pounds. Eating stuff like this can give you a nighttime stomach ache.

Bad habits need to be dealt with, especially negative habitual thoughts. Thinking the same negative thoughts over and over again can have an effect on our overall well-being. We can be our own worst critics. As my husband often points out, we can think and say things to ourselves that no one else would ever dare say. How cruel we are in our own thoughts. How will we ever break free?

Thank goodness for Jesus Christ! From Him we have the keys to the Kingdom of God that is within us. His promises and the hope he gives in the New Testament is water for the thirsty soul dragged down by the disappointments in life and a mind full of constant criticism. The New Testament is not just words but power for the mind and hope for the heart. He loves us just as we are and He will lead us out of the darkness of our thoughts and into the light of His. Jesus promises us this transformation, and it can happen quickly.

Do you have repeating thoughts that trouble you? Give them to Christ, tell Him what you are thinking. They are only thoughts, not reality. Do you have an image in your mind that frightens or shames you? God has given you an imagination to imagine Him, not these evil things, so show it to Christ and let Him take it from you. It is only an image, it is not real. These thoughts and images are common to most people and are like poisoned arrows flung at us to bring us down. Put up the shield of faith against them. Read Christ’s words of life in the New Testament, and think on His words of love and hope instead.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.–Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29)

A Green Smoothie with God

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

“Have you ever had a green smoothie?” I could’ve asked numerous folks in the audience that day, in fact anyone who was laughing at the actress who had just walked on stage with a kale smoothie, a prop to emphasize how differnt she was from “normal”. It wasn’t that funny to me. I thought the girl was smart to choose a kale smoothie over a chocolate milkshake. She was only playing a nerdy character but the truth is a green smoothie, when done right, has it all over a milkshake of any flavor.

First, you will need a blender. The base ingredient is a banana. Bananas make the smoothie sweet and thicken it. If you want your smoothie on the creamy side, the next ingredient is almond milk (or any nut milk). If you like it juicy rather than milky, add coconut water or throw in juicy fruits like oranges or watermelon and add a little water. Next, add some more fruit. Whatever you like, to give it a new taste. I like berries in mine. Some berries can make your green smoothie brown, so add a teaspoon of Matcha powder if you want a really green one. Next, give your smoothie some added nutrients with a tablespoon or more of flaxseed. Add a nut butter (tahini and cashew are great) for protein and healthy fats if you are going for a creamy smoothie. Last, throw in the greens. Kale is terrific but it is kind of tough and unless you have a super-speedy mixer like a Vitamix, you are going to get little kale pieces in your smoothie–not a bad thing really. I prefer swiss chard or spinach, or even a handful of mixed greens in mine. Anything will do though, even romaine. Blend it all together. I like to add a piece of ginger, some turmeric, and a few dashes of pepper for added antioxidant power.

Now, drink it! It is delicious and way better for your health than a milkshake. Here’s why. Bananas have potassium, berries are loaded with antioxidants, flaxseed contains magnesium, and almond milk has more calcium than milk. (Don’t shy away from these nut milks thinking they are only substitutes for the real thing: milk. Not true!) And the green stuff, most of them score 1000 points on the ANDI nutrient scale, the highest score a food can receive for nutrient content. Blending food like this helps your body get more nutrients. A smoothie is a meal, especially the creamy ones with the nut butters in them. If you want it as a dessert, using less almond milk and frozen fruit will render something more solid and cold like ice cream.

The best part of a green smoothie is after you eat one. There’s no holding your stomach with that uncomfortably full feeling. Instead, it energizes you. Your body jumps for joy and you are ready to tackle the day. Fatty cream from a fatty cow is not going to make anyone feel good except a calf. Now energize your spirit. Take a minute to thank God for the bounty of food He provides. Forgo that cut of red meat and if you miss the taste of it, eat it only occasionally or use only a small portion for the flavor. Enjoy the many types of beans and whole grains God gives to us. Don’t settle for milk and sugar, look to His grand variety of fruit and nut milks. Make your main dish at every meal a vegetable dish. The abundance of greens and other vegetables is a testimony to the love God has for us. Enjoy eating healthfully and don’t let anyone who laughs at your green smoothie put you off. You are the smart one, my friend, you have chosen the better way.

Look to your Bible to fill your hunger for spiritual contentment. Savor God’s great promises and the beauty and depth of His love for you that is written in the words of the New Testament and in the Psalms. So many things in this world fill our thoughts with anger, fear, and despair but these are not from God. We rush around checking off the tasks on our list. We imagine awful scenarios and bring ourselves to a point of anxiousness and hopelessness that makes God weep. Much of the sickness, poverty, war, violence and hatred of this world are of our own making; they are not the promises of God. Choose a better way by spending time contemplating God’s words to us because even with these difficulties that abound around us, God is able to reach out and calm our spirit with His excellent love. And lastly, choose the hope for a better life provided by Christ since He is the greatest of God’s gifts to mankind.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing.Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Bone Health and Finding a Perfect Way

For healthy bones we  are prescribed calcium and vitamin D but the amount of protein in our diets also affects bone health. A high protein diet is associated with an increase in bone mass for those whose calcium intake is adequate (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

However diets high in dairy, meat, and chicken can increase our acid intake. Since the body maintains a balance of acid and alkaline, a diet high in animal proteins alone may cause bone loss. An acidic diet makes the body leach calcium from bones to reduce the acid and this can cause weaker bones.

So how do we get twenty-five grams of protein at each meal without piling on the meat? Protein comes from many sources. A salad that includes broccoli, kale, nuts, seeds, fruit, and beans can adequately fulfill this target amount of protein without adding a lot (or any) meat, chicken, or fish. A salad like this will also add other nutrients, including calcium, that animal proteins will not. Even with a small amount of shrimp or meat, these types of salads tend to be alkalizing to the body, so we don’t have to worry about the acidic overload of meat-heavy meals. Other foods that have a negative effect on bone health are caffeinated drinks, salty foods, and sugary desserts and sodas (all acidic).

Bones and muscles go together so that increased physical activity will have a positive effect on bone health. Holy Yoga combines the discipline of yoga with Christian spirituality. Yoga has a positive affect on bone health because it stimulates bone remodeling and increases calcium absorption. Yoga can also correct posture and increase balance. Running and walking stimulates bone-building activity in the lower regions, while weight lifting and yoga poses affect the entire skeletal system.

It is my nature to immediately envision perfection. If having too much animal protein is bad then having none at all must be perfect. If salt, sugar, and caffeine are harmful, completely eliminating them is perfect. If yoga is good for me, then performing gumby-like poses must be perfection. When I hurriedly jump to expectations of perfection, I lose my joy over the small successes I achieve. Perfection is not what it is about.

Every step on the journey to spiritual and physical health is a great one, made to be enjoyed and celebrated. Efforts at increasing bone mass may take months, even years to see. Learning to cook one healthful meal to share can be a reward in itself. Yoga, weight lifting, running, and walking often take time to see improvement. None of these efforts need a perfect outcome, they all take time and each improvement needs to be enjoyed.

In Matthew 5 Jesus calls us to be perfect like our father in heaven. Who can be? If we break just one of God’s commandments, we are condemned. We can offer sacrifices and do penance but Christians know that Christ is our sacrifice. He has already done our penance. What a relief, and what joy it is to know that Christ is our perfection.  We can enjoy our less-than-perfect efforts at life, knowing that Christ loves us just as we are.

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.–Romans 5:10 & 11

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

 

The Best Nutritarian Food and The Good News

Whole Foods displays ANDI score

Whole Foods displays ANDI score

Nutritarian food has a scoring system called the ANDI score. It rates food from 1-1000 according to the nutrient content. The score considers the number of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants in any given food and the higher the score, the better. At the top of the list are greens like kale, romaine lettuce, mustard, turnip, and collard greens. At the bottom of the list are meats, dairy, sodas, sweets, and processed foods.

The best way to eat the high scoring ANDI food is as a salad. Use one of the greens as a base and add chopped vegetables, onions, cooked mushrooms, black beans, and some high-fat ingredient like olive, avocado, or sunflower seeds. Top it with a homemade salad dressing. My favorite salad dressing right now is just a couple of tablespoons of humus.

Soup is a main part of nutritarian eating that I often skip, but I shouldn’t because soups are easy to make, fill me up, and help me to stay slim. Start with a base like carrot or tomato juice, or broth, add a green, some onions, more vegetables, some flavoring, and some beans. Dr. Fuhrman has a neat little chart for making soup in his Eat for Health book.

Cooked greens, beans, and roasted vegetables are great dinners. My husband likes brown rice with his meal, but these are good with whole wheat pasta too. I usually serve everything with onions, mushrooms, garlic, and some type of cruciferous vegetable.

Nutritarian smoothies are made from fruits and nutbutters. Without the greens, smoothies are a dessert that is thick and creamy and better than ice cream. For a nutritious breakfast, throw in the greens and use almond milk instead of a nutbutter. Serve with a slice of multi whole grain toast.

Eating this way is a healthy alternative to the standard American diet that is so heavy on meats and dairy that have a lot of protein but few nutrients. The nutritarian diet is easy to understand and is good news for anyone who wants to live life to the fullest and eat wonderful food.

The Good News that Jesus gives us helps us to live life to the fullest, too.  His news is easy to understand and without any secrets. Faith in Christ Jesus fills us with joy because it allows us to hope in the future. Our joy is a deep joy that knows that no matter what might befall us, He will be with us, and will help us. His love comforts us and we do not despair in our suffering or trials because we know this life is a shadow of the everlasting life we will have in Him.

Our faith may waver in the face of many who believe there is no God, that we are merely by-products of natural chance, and that our world is an ever evolving ecosystem without any control but our own. However, we are not able to control nature, nor are we able even to control our own actions. We are prone to many vices, to outbursts of rage, to chronic sadness,  and to self-centeredness. Who will free us from these evils? Thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ. He promises us His own Holy Spirit that resides within us and transforms us from our natural state into an everlasting state, from death to life, and from slavery to sin to the power to overcome sin. Though we may suffer for a little while now, we can hope in the future He promises where there will be no more tears and no more pain. Glory to God for He is faithful, even when we are not; His promises stand even when we are unable to believe them.

Faith comes from hearing the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:17