Tuesday, August 10, 2010


There is no doubt in my mind that God created foods in nature that would not only benefit our health, but actually heal as well. Some foods have more nutrients and some have greater potential for rejuvenating the body than others.

There is no firm definition of the term "superfood." I've heard that in the strictest sense of the word it means a food that could, in and of itself, sustain life. The coconut, for example. But recently I've seen the word used for many foods which may not sustain life completely, but  are high in phytonutrients, antioxidants, nutrients, etc. I.e. the things that counteract oxidation and disease.

I've included a link to a very good article introducing a few "superfoods". And I'd like to offer a couple of ideas to get you using these foods right away.

Spinach and Salmon  Here are two delicious super foods in one recipe.

Seared Salmon on Baby Spinach

yield: Serves 2; can be doubled
  • 2 7-ounce skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 3 large shallots, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream


Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon; sauté until just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.
Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add half of shallots and half of tarragon; sauté 30 seconds. Increase heat to high; add half of spinach and toss 30 seconds. Add remaining spinach; toss until wilted. Divide between plates.
Melt remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining shallots and tarragon; sauté 30 seconds. Add wine and cream and boil until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return salmon to skillet; simmer 1 minute. Arrange salmon with sauce atop spinach. 

Easy, just top yogurt or granola with a half cup in the morning for breakfast. Feel free to experiment with berries. Deep reds and purples are the best for antioxidants and nutrients. Use them as often as your budget allows. Also great on top of cheese cake, pancakes, or with the strawberries in strawberry shortcake. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Middle Aged

Why do they call it "Middle Aged?" Is it a climax, a major turning point for the person as in a novel? Are you at the top of the hill now you begin to descend? "It's all downhill from here," as the saying goes.

But somehow I think life gets better.

Recently I've noticed a shift in my attitude. For the first time in my life I'm not looking to the next thing ahead, what I'll be when I grow up or where I'll live.  I'm beginning to relax and realize that what I have is really pretty good.

I've even pondered the idea of sacrificing the flesh so the spirit in me will grow stronger. No, I'm not going crazy or anything. I haven't actually done any self-sacrificing yet. Maybe that will come in another decade. But the thought alone is startling.

Maybe this is a transition in life where the focus begins to change. A moment in life where eternity begins to seem real.

Hey, Middle Age isn't so bad, and somehow I think it won't be downhill from here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Happiness Deception

Freedom to pursue life, liberty and anything that makes me happy.

Isn't that right? After all we're Americans and personal happiness is our highest goal. Or so it often seems.

Unfortunately the Church in America has bought into the lie that God's highest goal is for us to be happy.

"God would want me to have this, after all, it's what I want, it will make me happy and He is my father who loves me, right?"  ~A common line of reasoning when we're trying to justify our desires.

The truth is, God's highest goal for us is to be mature, holy, obedient, spiritual adults. His desire is for us to grow out of immature selfishness and into selfless love.

Sacrifice is better for us than indulgence.

It is true that He's our Father, but He doesn't want us to be perpetual infants.

Many soldiers have sacrificed to give us freedom in this country. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice to give us freedom from sin and eternal destruction.

Plants offer a great example, when they grow to maturity they give of themselves. An obvious example is a fruit tree, when it matures it bears fruit for us to pick and be nourished. But even weeds give of themselves. For example, Dandelions are full of nutrition and a tea of nettles can offer help against allergies.

Let us stop searching for opportunities to treat ourselves.

Let us search for opportunities to give of ourselves.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Obedience & Death

Why do I resist total obedience?

I'm like a toddler who doesn't understand why I can't touch the hot stove. you say, "No," but it's all I want to do in that moment. Often You allow it that I might learn from the experience.

I need to die to this flesh, trusting that Your knowledge is above my own. Yet I continue to resist Your nudgings to go beyond my comfort zone.

Why do I resist?

Death is a separation of body and spirit, so naturally we resist it. But spiritually we yearn for it in order to be free from the body's limitations and soar with God's Spirit.

Every time we deny the flesh it dies a little.

"If you are living according to the flesh, you must die;
but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Romans 8:13 (NASB)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chain Smoking

The plight of a mother facing an empty nest.

Phone calls and text messages one upon the other. Only two callers: son two and son three. Messages from these two still living at home are a constant onslaught. Like the cigarettes of a chain smoker, lighting a new smoke from the burning butt of the one before.

The inevitable call at the end of one activity asking or anouncing the next, often without darkening the door of our home in between.

Summer has arrived. School has ended and with it the demands of activities such as drama and swimming. But now without the structure of school the next morning there remains no compelling argument for them to come home early or to sleep at home.

One son gone already, so long gone. Just a year more with the next and three more with the youngest. The time is so precious. But my time with them burns up in smoke as one cigarette lights another.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Exhale/Inhale God's Word

Exhale. . .

Inhale. . .

Breathing is our body feeding on oxygen.
The oxygen cleanses as well as nourishes every cell.

When we breath without thought, as we do most of the time,
our breath is shallow, our muscles tense.
But when we take a moment to focus 
and we practice deep cleansing breathing,
Our bodies are refreshed, renewed and relaxed.

Exhaling eliminates stagnant, toxic air 
preparing the lungs and blood to receive fresh oxygen.
Exhaling completely must be done consciously.

Inhaling fills our body with vital, nourishing air.
The lungs pump oxygen into our bloodstream,
which carries it to every living cell. 

Completely filling with oxygen invigorates the body. 
This is why exercise makes us feel alive, 
it forces the body to take in more oxygen.

Try it: 
Exhale until you cannot squeeze another drop of air out of your system.
Next inhale slowly from the belly then fill the chest and the rest of the body.

Our mind and spirit feed on God's word the same way our body feeds on air.

Short, thoughtless snipets of God's presence and His word do not suffice.
A Sunday morning church service, 
a three-paragraph devotional before our morning shower,
an "Our Father" before bed,
These are great to sustain us for a time, 
 but we also need to go deeper.

Read God's word, the Bible.
Let its words wash over you, 
convicting you of sinful attitudes, thoughts and actions.
Confess your sin to the Father who's already made provision for your forgiveness.

Release it.

Once emptied of toxins, 
fill up on God's word.
Meditate on it, bask in it.
Let it nourish and satisfy your soul.

Exhale. . .

Inhale. . .

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life in Defiance Review

Life in Defiance, released May 2010, is the third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy by Mary DeMuth. The town of Defiance Texas has yet to discover the killer of one of their own, a young girl named Daisy Chance.

Ouisie Pepper is the mother of the girl’s best friend, Jed. She’s also the wife of the local pastor, Hap Pepper, and she has a number of secrets locked away inside her. These secrets threaten to ruin her if her husband doesn’t kill her first with his raging temper. Ouisie believes she can change him by becoming a better person herself. But change doesn’t come easily.

Throughout her journey, Ouisie struggles between exposing the truth, including the killer’s identity, and guarding her secrets to protect the guilty and the life she’s always known. She befriends Daisy’s mother, Emory, who’s grieving, but growing in her new found faith. Emory encourages Ouisie to get away from Hap for her own safety and that of her children, but she doesn’t want to believe it’s as bad as it really is.

Ouisie lies to herself most of all. She can’t see that most of the town already knows some of her secrets. And she doesn’t understand how the truth will, as the Bible says, set her free.

With the help of her friends and her faith in God, Ouisie is finally able to face the truth, speak it out and embark on a new life.

DeMuth weaves a powerful illustration in Life in Defiance to portray the biblical principle that the Truth will set you free. Ouisie’s story is one of abuse both physical and emotional. It is an authentic look into the mind of someone who’s been abused—a peek into the reasoning of an abuse victim. And it is a revelation of how a person can rely on loving, Christian friends to help them gain a right perspective.

Ouisie’s story is gripping and keeps the reader wondering what will happen next and who Daisy’s killer is. DeMuth’s writing is smooth, beautifully descriptive one moment and shockingly real the next. She portrays her characters well—the abuser, the abused and those who love them.

Most of us never have to suffer the things DeMuth’s characters suffer in the Defiance Texas Trilogy. For that we are grateful, but the lessons her characters learn are lessons we can each take to heart no matter what circumstances we face.

*Note: I received a complementary copy of Life in Defiance for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Exaggerated Images

In his book, Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton touches on the importance of having a right perspective of ourselves.

"It (prayer/meditation) means the renunciation of all deluded images of ourselves, all exaggerated estimates of our own capacities, in order to obey God's will as it comes to us. . . "

I don't know about you, but I struggle with this all the time. I picture myself as being so much more effective, more disciplined and righteous. I imagine that I'm nice to everyone. But so often I catch myself thinking critically of others or being judgmental. Did I mention my selfishness? No? I don't like to mention it to myself either. 

And one more thing, I can't stop thinking about what I want to be when I grow up! I dream about where I want to live, how successful I'll be. By the way, I'm 45! Wonder when I'll grow up. But I think it's because this life just isn't as exciting as I thought it'd be, not as many people are being saved, helped or changed--at least that I can see--from my life.

God help me. I am so prideful. Merton's words "deluded images of ourselves," and "exaggerated estimates of our own capacities" knock me on my face before my God.

Father forgive me and help me renounce these delusions so that I can focus on actually doing Your will. Though it may not seem as grand or glorious, by faith I believe my obedience in the small things will make an eternal difference.

Thomas Merton was a monk, poet, and author. You can read his compelling testimony in the book, Seven Story Mountain. To learn more about him go to www.merton.org

I'll be using excerpts from Contemplative Prayer in the coming weeks unless I have a book review to share with you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Present Perfect" by Greg Boyd

I've recently read the book, Present Perfect, by Gregory A. Boyd. Greg is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries. He was a professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, Minn.) for sixteen years where he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor.  Greg is a national and international speaker and author or coauthor of  eighteen books prior to Present Perfect.

My first exposure to Greg was reading his book, God at War. I cannot tell you how he expanded my thinking, so I enthusiastically agreed to review Present Perfect, which released in 2010. I have not been disappointed.

After receiving a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for review, I quickly dove in, however I discovered I could not rush through this one. It's very easy to read, but I had to take my time. I just missed the days of Greg's blog tour, but I don't regret spending a few extra days in this book. This book is life-changing and I will read it many times again.

Present Perfect focuses on the awareness of God's presence in the present moment. Greg draws from three authors: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Jean-Pierre de Caussade and Frank Laubach. The first two were seventeenth-century monks. I remember reading Brother Lawrence's book, The Practice of the Presence of God, in college in the early 80's. It had a lasting impact on my life. Recently, literally the day before I began Present Perfect, I finished the book The Sacrement of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I had no idea Greg's book would be about the same concept, nor that he would draw from de Caussade's book.

The basic premise is to become aware of God's presence and love in each present moment. This awareness brings Christ's life and love into our lives and conforms us into His image. I cannot think of any other discipline in the Christian's life that could have such an impact on the Christian, the Church or the world. It's true it must become a discipline, then a practice, then a habit, but little by little we are made into the image of Christ. We're aware of His love for us and others as we practice His presence in the present moment.

My husband is a pastor. He's already read the book and we will recommend it to our church. See for yourself. Check out Greg's website and other comments about Present Perfect, released by Zondervan 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planning, Expectation & Joy

Why is it we expect life to turn out just like we planned?

Has that ever happened? Is it realistic to even hope? I don't think so. Yet we plan our life's biggest events believing they will turn out just exactly as we planned. And when they don't? Of course, we're crushed.

I have weddings on my mind right now. My son will be getting married this Fall and my friend's son is getting married in a couple of weeks. I also have the opportunity to observe other brides-to-be since I work in a college. Most brides are. . . well, beautiful of course. . . but before the actual day, they can become spinning, green monsters with five eyes, thirty-six hands and at least three mouths with which to bark orders. Not my daughter-in-law-to-be, of course, she's actually quite relaxed about the whole thing. At least from what I can tell from a few thousand miles and five months away.

Girls typically plan their wedding in their head from the time they first played house or Barbie. We know the colors, the dress-style, the location, even the weather conditions. No, we never stopped to consider that there might be some things in our planning that were beyond our control. In our fantasy world, it was all in our control.

Thus the problem when the actual moment arrives in our life. Why aren't things going as planned? Why doesn't everyone know what I want? Why don't we have enough money for all of it? And why can't the weather cooperate? In our fantasy, Aunt So & So never wore a Hawaiian-print pants suit that clashed with our color scheme. Our nephew never knocked over the punch and Uncle Here-We-Go-Again didn't get plastered at the open bar.

It's not just at weddings that we have these unrealistic expectations about life. Almost any event that we know about ahead of time, anything that takes planning, we expect to be perfect--according to our plan.

And what happens when it doesn't go according to plan?

Even our life, itself, never goes according to our plan or expectation. We never planned to marry an abusive person. Or, we never planned to get divorced or have someone close to us pass away early in life. We never thought we'd still be earning such a low income and be unable to buy a house at 40. We never expected to have a child with a handicap.

What about smaller expectations, a little closer to home, maybe? I never thought I'd still be struggling with this food addiction by this age. I never thought I'd react like my parents did. I thought I would've accomplished so much more for God by now.

Expectations like these can lead to discouragement or something more severe.

Planning is vital, don't get me wrong. We need to plan. And we need expectations too, but hey, we're not yet in Heaven and we're not yet perfect. Life will NOT go as planned, you can plan on it, so leave yourself some emotional latitude. When you've laid out your plans and done your best to follow them; when you've given your all and still it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, then take a step back. Breathe God's fresh air. Allow Him to be sovereign. His plans are not our plans. He can take the mess you think you have and work it all out for good--even for the best.

All this to say: Make your plans and follow them. Then enjoy the ride, bumps and all. Weddings, marriages, coordinated events, jobs and life will be so much more fun if you do. Don't stress over the little things. Focus on your blessings. Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crossing Oceans

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross. Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.

Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes Waters, published by Tyndale, officially released May 2010. It is a captivating tale of life and death. Crossing Oceans inspires insight beyond petty differences into eternity. With that kind of vision we gain a better perspective and learn what love really means.

Here's what others have said about Crossing Oceans:

“Beautiful and heartfelt.”
Charles Martin, NYT bestselling author of Where the River Ends

“Poignant and unforgettable, CROSSING OCEANS will break your heart — and then put the pieces back together again. This is an uplifting and inspiring tale that reminds us to live every day as if it’s our last.”
Tess Gerritsen, NYT Best-selling author .

“Moving, heart-rending and poignant, a stunning debut. Holmes returns us to what matters in a too-short life—what it really is to come home.”
Tosca Lee, Author of Havah & Demon: A Memoir

“Gina Holmes explores the beauty, tenderness and tenacity of mother-love in Crossing Oceans with marvelous skill and insight. An outstanding debut from a gifted storyteller. Bravo!
Susan Meissner, Author of The Shape of Mercy 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring and Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine each season has a corresponding organ of the body. Spring is the season of the Liver. As such, Spring is the best time of year to cleanse the liver. There are a number of ways to accomplish that and not surprisingly, they are things we're naturally drawn to at this time of year.

Don't you just love God and His infinite wisdom?

I should stop and let you know right now that I believe in the Bible as God's Word and fully support following it in every way. But I see some of God's truth reflected in the belief and practices of other religions. I have no problem believing that the Chinese may understand something about the human body or herbs that we in the West do not. Nor do I have a problem incorporating a practice as long as I refuse to violate Scripture. All truth is God's truth, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I simply ask myself if it is in line with God's character as revealed in the Bible.

As far as Chinese medicine, I see it as another method of diagnosis and health care, always careful to separate that aspect of it from the Daoist philosophy, which would often contradict Biblical understanding of life.

 Here's my quick description of TCM: Traditional Chinese Medicine is a science of diagnosing and treating symptoms as is Western Medicine. However, the two approach it from a different perspective. Chinese medicine sees the organs as the basis for all health and/or sickness. These organs are connected to all other tissue by means of channels and blood vessels. Therefore, outward symptoms point to internal problems, similar to western medicine. In my simplistic understanding, Chinese Medicine seeks to adjust or balance the flow of energy between organs or between organs and tissue to produce change and thus healing.

So how can Chinese Medicine be helpful in this time of new beginning and new life, which we call Spring?

It's a time to lighten up. Over the Winter, we crave comfort food, mashed potatoes with butter, meat, soups and stews, for example. But as warmer weather arrives, a longing grows in us to eat light and move more. Light, leafy greens tempts us, but without sin. Go ahead indulge! Take a big bowl of baby spinach, dandelion greens, scallions and sprouts. Eat them with celery, daikon radish and fish, if you like. These kinds of foods cleanse the body of toxins and tones the liver naturally.

Here are some more ideas:
- Light exercise such as stretching. Activity causes the liver to release blood to the tendons providing tendon health and flexibility.
- As mentioned above, eat green. (And to my boys, "No, I don't mean green jello").
- Eat sour foods, they stimulate energy flow. Try some lemon squeezed into your water.
- Outdoor activities provide fresh air, which also stimulates the flow of energy, and it gives us an excuse to exercise.
- Try a tea of Milk Thistle. It's cleansing and helps protect liver cells.

Yes, our Creator, the Lord God Almighty, is perfect in wisdom. He created in us right desires (if they haven't been tainted) and provided, through His creation, exactly what we'd need to fulfill those desires. And He made them to feed us the perfect nutrients needed for the season.

We praise and magnify Your name, Emmanuel, forever and ever!

References Used:

Spirit of Renewal: Spring and TCM

Guide to Seasonal Eating: Spring

TCM Information Page

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Simply Natural

 "Nature, in all her revelations, seeks to teach man the greatness of simplicity. Health is but the living of a physical life in harmony with a few simple, clearly defined laws. Simple food, simple exercise, simple precautions will work wonders. But man grows tired of the simple things, he yields to subtle temptations in eating and drinking, listens to his palate instead of to Nature, —and he suffers. He is then led into intimate acquaintance with dyspepsia (digestion problems leading to numerous physical problems), and he sits like a child at his own bounteous table, forced to limit his eating to simple food that he scorned." ~From Self Control, Its Kingship and Majesty by William George Jordan, 1905

How true? Even more today than when first penned by Jordan in 1905. "Health is but the living of a physical life in harmony with a few simple, clearly defined laws." Not laws set by Congress or the State Senate, but laws set by us and for us, individuals who desire a better life.

What kind of laws? Laws that set forth balance. Specifically speaking of diet and health here, but the principle applies to all areas of life. Jordan points out a few: simple food, simple exercise, simple precautions.

Simple Food: Get back to the basics. Raw, organic produce. Locally raised meat without hormones. I remember the three basic principles of good eating I learned from the book, "What the Bible Says About Healthy Living" by Rex Russell, M.D. Number One, eat what God made. Number Two, eat it as close to the way that God made it as possible. And Number Three, avoid all food that is, or could be, an addiction for you personally. Such simple, practical advice. Not always easy to apply, I admit, but so beneficial.

So many today have what Jordan calls "dyspepsia." I see it in people of every age, even young people. Eating disorders and digestion dysfunction abounds. People are literally eating themselves sick. We don't even want to hear that what we eat effects our health and we don't want to go there for answers when we do get sick.

Don't get me wrong, I love food. I love rich, gourmet food. I even have a blog just for food complete with recipes (see Foodie4Health in my blog links). But I also love to be healthy and like being a good steward of my body as well as our money. It's expensive to eat gourmet. I believe we can have food that's both delicious and healthy. However we need to commit ourselves to our health and the simple life first, then explore our options within that parameter.

Now don't laugh like that! It's not impossible. But the first step to the simple life in any area is commitment. Not a fun word, but a necessary word that frees us from the consequences of no commitment. A word that, when lived out, offers a life of contentment and success that we never dreamed possible. A commitment and some discipline is all it requires.
"Let us seek to cultivate this simplicity in all things in our life. The first step toward simplicity is 'simplifying.' The beginning of mental or moral progress or reform is always renunciation or sacrifice. It is rejection, surrender or destruction of separate phases of habit or life that have kept us from higher things. Reform your diet and you simplify it; make your speech truer and higher and you simplify it; reform your morals and you begin to cut off your immorals. The secret of all true greatness is simplicity. Make simplicity the keynote of your life and you will be great, no matter though your life be humble and your influence seem but little. Simple habits, simple manners, simple needs, simple words, simple faiths,—all are the pure manifestations of a mind and heart of simplicity."

May we heed these words penned by William Jordan in 1905, grasping their relevance for today and may we endeavor to live them out in our diet and every other area of life.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Microbiology and Antioxidants

**Correction to the following post: My friend has not completely sworn off antibacterial products. She sees the need for them in certain situations. I apologize to her and to you for misrepresenting her. 


A close friend of mine is taking Microbiology. They have the great experience of studying and handling germs. Doesn't that sound fun? But I'm told that it's necessary to take this course if you want to become a nurse. So there she is.

Recently the professor assigned them a project. They were to take a certain germ and find out the most effective way to kill it. She tried a number of different substances but discovered that a few essential oils were the most effective antibacterial substances of all those they tested. The best ones were Tea Tree Oil, otherwise known as Melaleuca Oil, and Lavendar Oil. Personally I buy cleaning products from the Melaleuca company. {Side note: If you're interested in their products, send me an email}

Since taking this class my friend has actually sworn off antibacterial products, even the natural ones. She's learning that to kill bacteria is to kill the good and bad alike and without the good bacteria we lose our ability to fight off the bad. The result: we catch things much easier and the bad germs tend to mutate to something worse.

My feeling is that God provided all we need to fight infection. He made somethings naturally antibacterial and somethings just good cleaning agents because He knew that we'd need to fight the germs sometimes and other times we'd need those 'bad' germs to instigate our bodies to develop a stronger germ warfare naturally.

Following is an excerpt from an article I ran across recently that sums it up nicely.

Are natural antibacterial sanitizers healthier?

"The first reason to avoid them [antibacterial sanitizers], says Rebecca Sutton, PhD, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, is an  ingredient called triclosan, commonly used in antibacterial products. Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent and pesticide that’s closely related to dioxin. Translation: It’s been linked to liver and thyroid problems. Awesome.  
The second reason to avoid antibacterial products is that even those made with alcohol increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. What that means, in a nutshell, is that as antibacterial products become more common, some germs become immune to them, then come back with a vengeance in the form of “superbugs.” Trust us when we say that you do not want a superbug setting up camp in your bod. And since study after study shows that washing your hands with regular soap and water is as effective as using special germ-killing products, there’s really no point in buying a bunch of disinfectants you don’t need, whether they’re synthetic or natural.
Of course there are situations where you might justifiably need a quick, convenient way to wash up without water — whether you’re hiking or roadtripping. And yes, if you want to throw a hand sanitizing gel in your diaper bag or camping first aid kit, a bio-based product like ethanol would probably have a slight edge over petroleum-derived, isopropyl alcohol, the more common ingredient in hand gels. We all know corn doesn’t exactly have a pristine environmental record, but it definitely never hurts to reduce your consumption of petroleum-based products, even if by just a smidgen."
Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.                 Copyright Environ Press 2008.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Life

New Life

Brown earth. Trash exposed. Death pervades. 

It's the end of a long winter. For a time the brown death wore a shiny white mask, but no more. Will the desolation continue? Is there no hope for new life?

Of course, there is--SPRING. In fact, underneath the mulch and straw I can see a few green sprouts pushing their way toward the sun. I cannot uncover them yet. Oh no, for over a month more there's a chance of another frost. But the hope of those new plants encourages me. New life has begun! In a few months the earth will be full of color and life.

We have this assurance because it happens every year: Death in the Fall, Sleepy white cover hides the dead earth in Winter, then new life sprouts in Spring and mature green life thrives in the Summer. Sunrise, sunset, summer, fall, winter, spring. Experience promises it will be again.

Spring offers new baby plants at the same time the Cross and Resurrection offers new life to those long dead spiritually. What a celebration! Jesus knew the death in our hearts. He saw it even when we tried to cover it up with a shiny coat or mask. But He didn't get grossed-out and turn His face away. He watered our barren heart with His blood, then shone the light of His own resurrection on it to produce new life in us.

Now we grow to maturity. We're all at different places in that process, but we continue toward the goal of becoming like Christ. We practice listening, learning and obeying. We're getting better at it and maturing along the way. One day He'll return and we'll be just like Him when we see Him face to face.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
My son is in chemistry class. Today he learned that purple has the highest energy level of all the colors. In a lay-person's understanding (mine) that means there is greater movement when the light hits the purple object thus producing that color.

Here's an interesting look at the meanings of color in food:  Color Energy in Food

"Purple is also a color that generates good chi. So, wherever you would like to add extra energy, consider adding purple. However, because it is a stimulating color, it’s better not to put purple in bathrooms and kitchens, where it can enhance the negative energies of these rooms." ~ says Kathryn Weber, referring to Feng Shui design, in her article Purple Power

Recently I've been hearing about the amazing health benefits of purple, as well as blue and red berries. They are all said to be full of antioxidants, some more than others. Of the berries in an average American diet--strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries--blueberries are said to have the highest antioxidant content. But there are berries grown outside the U.S. that rate even higher and now manufacturers are taking advantage of the positive studies by producing concentrated juices from these berries.

Berries such as Acai, Goji and Pomegranate are said to contain a great amount of antioxidants. These juices are sold in natural food stores, online or in the natural section of your local grocery store.

These berries contain several substances called anthocyanins and flavanoids. "Anthocyanin" comes from two Greek words meaning "plant" and "blue." They are responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues in many fruits, vegetables and flowers. Foods rich in anthycyanins are very strongly colored, ranging from deep purple to black. These antioxidants help defend the body against free radicals, which are harmful byproducts produced by the body in response to stressors. Antioxidants also play a role in the body's cell protection system. They are said to help reduce the risk of disease.

Recently I've read and heard great things about Cherry juice. This would fall into the same category as the Acai, Pomegranate and Goji berry juices. These juices, when concentrated are said to help with arthritis and joint pain because they reduce swelling. Because of the antioxidants, the juices can help fight heart disease and cancer.

These claims are big and there is no hard and fast proof as of yet, though some studies have been very positive. The best way to find out is to try them. There is no risk since these fruits are natural, unless you have a specific allergy to them. Also, if you have diabetes, you should know that any fruit juice is high in natural sugar.

I'm always amazed at the wide variety of things God created for the benefit of our health. He knew exactly what we'd need. He even looked ahead to the pollution that would be caused by our own "ingenious" inventions and realized we'd need antioxidants in our food to counteract the free radicals these technologies would cause. Praise be to His glorious name!   

"Then God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, 
and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them;' 
and it was so."
~Genesis 1:1 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greater than Tsunamis and Earthquakes

In recent weeks we've witnessed the power of earthquakes in Haiti, Chili and this morning, a small one in California. Closer to home we've seen floods in nearby states. Several years ago the media brought us the news of a devastating tsunami in the far east and just a few years ago we saw the destruction of hurricane Katrina on our own boarders.

Nature shows its power from time to time and we cower, knowing all our knowledge and understanding can't control these forces of nature. We don't even have the power to prevent loss of life. We are weak before the earth, the wind and the water.

But our God is not weak. The majesty and power of God is greater. Look at Psalm 93.

"The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. 
Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, o Lord,
The floods have lifted up their voice, 
The floods life up their pounding waves.
More than the sounds of many waters, 
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.
Your testimonies are fully confirmed;
Holiness befits Your house,
O Lord, forevermore."
Psalm 93

In the midst of floods and chaos, we run to the One who is mighty, more mighty than the circumstances surrounding us. We can be sure that He is great, He is powerful and He is with us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, ". . .I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

What a comfort in an unpredictable world!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


UPDATE: Click here for Harmon's Obit and Photo Look for him in the right-hand column)

Harmon died today.

I didn't know him well. How well can you know someone who doesn't speak to you? Harmon had downs syndrome and lived to be in his fifty's. He lived next door to me with two other adult foster-care men. My neighbor, Jewels, takes care of them. Harmon had been with her for well over twenty years. He was a son to her.

Harmon used to walk around the block holding an American flag. He had that flag every time I've ever seen him, except for yesterday.

Once Jewels brought him to our church. We have a relaxed church with lively worship and we have flags up at the front for any who'd like to use them in worship. That morning a few were waving flags, so Harmon got out into the isle with his American flag and "waved" with the rest of them. His movements weren't smooth and practiced. I have to admit he was a distraction. And yet, it was a distraction with a message.

All are welcome at the foot of the cross. God welcomes all who come to worship Him without shame. Harmon had no shame that morning, he had no idea we watched him. I didn't even know if he understood he was in church and it was all about God-until yesterday.

I had gone next door and Jewels asked me to pray with Harmon. He was so close to death, stiffness had already set in. I put my hand in his and began talk-praying. That's what I call it. I asked him if he remembered coming to our church and waving flags.

He squeezed my hand!

I hadn't expected that, but as I talked more about it he squeezed my hand a number of times and Jewels noticed that he was trying to smile. I'd never had Harmon really interact with me when I tried to talk to him before. But here, now, on his deathbed, talking about church and Jesus, he reacted.

Today I'm thinking of how Jewels loved Harmon consistently, tirelessly without expecting or demanding any reaction much less thanks. I see Christ in her. That's how He loves us, that's how he loves Harmon still, today welcoming him into His open arms.

I look at myself, so often willing to give up on a project or even a person if I don't see some kind of results or appreciation. Lord Jesus, forgive me and let Harmon's testimony change me. Amen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lent and Rushing Water

Have you ever had any kind of wilderness survival training? I had a course in seventh grade in preparation for a snowbound adventure, complete with snowshoes. One thing we learned was not to drink stagnant water. I grew up in Colorado where gravity ruled the movement of most water so that wasn't a problem. Nature's running water. It was clear, clean and colder than your refrigerator.

So, what does the river have to do with Lent?

Lent is a time of reflection. It's a time to consider the life, death and then the resurrection of Christ, but also to contemplate the reason for His suffering--Me.

We remember our shortcomings, maybe not evil for today's standards, but evil for God's standards. Falling short of the goal even the smallest bit is, missing the mark. It means we lose the ability to have a relationship with our Creator and God. So He took our just punishment. He won the victory for us all.

It's so easy to take this lightly. But our salvation is not, and has never been a license to live our own life, shunning God by making our own decisions. He purchased our freedom. If we accepted the gift, then our life is now His, but He waits for us to offer it freely to Him. We can trust Him with it. After all He paid dearly for it.

So during Lent we reflect. We confess our sins to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We thank Him for His generous sacrifice and we purify ourselves, consecrating our life once again to the One who is worthy of it.

Busyness, however, can rob us of this intentional thinking. We end up making decisions on the spur of the moment because we don't have time to consider what God would want. Like a stagnant pond collecting abstract objects that clutter and add filth, we become lifeless--functioning, but not really living.

Oh for the purifying, rushing river of the Holy Spirit. The river moves, it doesn't stagnate. Like the Holy Spirit prodding us to repentance and holy living, the river pushes ahead carrying away filthy debris that would otherwise clog the river.

May I determine to give some time for reflection during this Lenten season, allowing the Holy Spirit to nudge me forward.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fickle Weather

Photo by Joshua Thompson
It's supposed to snow again this week, maybe tomorrow. But right now the sun is shining and from inside my window the warm rays feel like Spring is with us. 

The weather changes so quickly, especially as Spring approaches. We'll get ready to believe the warm weather is permanent only to be blasted again with snow and ice. We'll drag our boots and gloves back out of the winter storage box, kicking ourselves for putting them away so quickly. Out will come the window scraper and shovel and we'll put that extra ten minutes back into our morning routine for shoveling and scraping. Here in Minnesota we don't put those things away until May, we don't want to get too hopeful, after all. 

Unpredictable, even nasty weather reminds me of life, don't you think? Just when things are looking up, life blasts us with more cold circumstances or icy feelings of discouragement for no apparent reason.

Nature mimics life's uncertainty, but nature also reminds us of the sure nature of God's character. For we know deep down that Spring will come, then Summer, then Fall again and so on. The seasons continue throughout the ages, just as they always have. Consistent. On this we can rely, just as we can on God's character. This is where we build our bridge spanning the turbulence of life. We stand on Him during the storms that rage like our rock of Gibraltar.

God's character, his goodness, faithfulness, wisdom and sovereignty allow us to trust that He is indeed at work. He will bring us through the storms of life, not only as survivors, but as successful.

Even though the weather patterns change, the seasons remain the same. Take heart. 

Psalm 107:19-32
 "19Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
   20He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
   21Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
   22And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
   23They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
   24These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
   25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
   26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
   27They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
   28Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
   29He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
   30Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
   31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
   32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review - Thin Places

 I don't usually put book reviews here. The Christian Naturalist's purpose is to explore God's character and gain spiritual lessons from nature. Thin Places, A Memoir by Mary DeMuth is a book about discovering God's character and lessons in life's circumstances. So I didn't think you'd mind. I encourage you to look for the book and Mary's other books as well and let me know what you think.

“I, myself, am a thin place.” DeMuth says in the first paragraph. “The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond…I’m broadening the metaphor a bit. Thin places are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are aha moments, beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the heavy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh.” ~opening lines from Thin Places by Mary DeMuth.

From the first pages of the book, DeMuth piques the reader’s longing for the spiritual. She shines a light on our own yearning for the nearness of God’s presence, then proceeds to demonstrate His nearness in the most undesirable circumstances. 

DeMuth lays herself bare on the pages of this 215-page memoir. She is honest, humble and through her vulnerability reveals the love and sovereignty of God that she has discovered over the course of her early life. She shares poems and snippets from her childhood journals and reveals underlying pride and self-deceit common to most of us.

As in the fictional stories she weaves, DeMuth’s writing in Thin Places is earthy and real, even edgy, but always permeated with the light of hope in Christ. She claims to be a storyteller but her stories are not fluffy entertainment, they are powerful stories of God’s redemption, love and hope as is her own story told here in Thin Places: A Memoir.

Describing Thin Places, DeMuth writes, “The end result is story: mine. It’s the story of a little girl who faced sexual abuse, neglect, drug-using parents, fear, death of a parent, and a host of other malevolence. And yet it’s a hope-filled story, where the bright light of God’s climactic redemption outshines the dark places. It’s a story of God’s nearness when I thought I’d nearly lose my mind and will to live. How grateful I am for the beautiful love of Jesus, how dearly He chose frail me to shame the wise. It’s really His story after all.”

I recommend Thin Places for anyone who has experienced troubling circumstances, or just life in this life. May you and I each discover the thin places where God comes near.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Introducing a New Blog

My blog is going through some changes. More specifically it's dividing into two. The Christian Naturalist will continue right here, but I'm adding Foodie For Health to my blogging endeavors.

Foodie For Health will focus on delicious natural foods and will feature a recipe with each post.

The Christian Naturalist will ponder God's amazing creation as a resource for sustaining and enhancing life. We'll look into any area in which natural things in creation can be used for our benefit. Recipes may be included here or may not, but there will always be a link on this page to the Foodie blog and visa versa.

I hope you enjoy the changes and will follow both blogs regularly. I value you opinion and your readership.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hope of Spring

All around is white, but the sky is blue and the sun is still shining at nearly 5pm! The temperature is a decent 22 F. It's just early February but the hope of Spring is in the air. Each week the days will stretch a little bit. The temperature will continue to fluctuate, but at least the amount of daylight will continue to grow and we'll hold on to the assurance that Winter does NOT last forever.

Again nature, specifically the seasons, give such a picture of the spiritual reality. When in our darkest moments in life, the moment you're sure you can't go on unless you can see something to give you hope, the very next moment there's a glimmer of light. A tiny bit more light than you had before, just enough to remind you that the darkness will not--cannot--last forever. Spring is on it's way. Nothing will stop it's coming. No amount of snow, ice or arctic temperatures can deter the coming of Spring.

The darkness does not remain forever.

Take hope in this, fellow journeyman/journeywoman, neither storm nor winter lasts forever. God is in control and He will bring you through the darkness into the light. Sadness, sorrow, grief, discouragement will give way to hope. With God there is always hope. And hope does not disappoint as the Scripture says.

I don't know, maybe I'm in the mood for oranges recently. They seem so sunny, so cheery in the middle of winter. So here's a salad with oranges from Lunds & Byerly's Real Food, Spring 2010 magazine. See Lunds & Byerly's online and go to their "Recipes & Expertise" section for more great recipes like this one.

Orange and Shaved-Fennel Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Cheese Curls

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin in vertical strips
2 large (or 4 small) oranges, peeled, white pith removed, but either in segments or into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fincely chopped fern-like fennel tops
pinch of course salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 ounce wedge Pecorino Romano or Asiago cheese

1. Using a sharp hand-held vegetable slicer or the slicing blade of a food processor, cut the fennel bulb into thin cross-wise slices. There should be about two cups packed. Place the fennel and the onion in a large bowl, cover with water, and add ice cubes. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.

2. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on a large platter or four individual salad plates. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil and top each with a generous grinding of black pepper.

3. Toss the fennel and onions in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, and one tablespoon of the fennel tops. Add a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Mound in the center of the orange slices.

4. To toast walnuts: Add to a small dry skillet and cook over low heat, stirring until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

5. Use a vegetable peeler or cheese plane to cut thin curls of cheese from the wedge and arrange on top of the salad. Sprinkle with walnuts and remaining chopped fennel tops and serve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tea, God's Healing Drink

"Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one."
~Ancient Chinese Proverb

Outside the window snowflakes are falling, the temperature is dropping and you hold a warm cup of tea between your hands. The gentle steam rises to warm your face and the aroma soothes the tension in your neck. What could be better on a cold winter day?

But tea is more than comforting. More and more studies are showing the health benefits of tea.

In her book, Healthy Healing, Linda Pages says this about tea: "Both green and black tea have enzymes that promote digestion and help our bodies resist harmful bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus. High flavonoids in both teas reduce harmful blood clotting linked to heart attacks. Both contain polyphenols (not tannins as commonly believed) that act as antioxidants, yet do not interfere with iron or protein absorption. The natural, bioactive caffeine contained in both black tea (50 to 80mg per cup) and green tea (about 30mg per cup) helps combat mental fatigue."

Black and Green tea come from the same plant, thea sinensis, which is grown from the Middle East to the Orient. Green tea is picked from the first tender leaves of Spring. Black tea is fermented for three hours, then often scented with spices to strengthen aroma and reduce bitterness.

Page goes on to explain the extra benefits of Green Tea. "[Green Tea] contains larger amounts of healing nutrients, including twice as much vitamin C, more than twice the amount of bioflavonoid activity and six times the antioxidant properties of black tea."

Page notes that milk should not be added to Green Tea as it inhibits absorption of the protective polyphenols. (I've heard that adding milk to chocolate also inhibits the absorption of the antioxidants).

The health benefits of tea have been known since close to 2300BC in China.

What I love about natural things used for healing is that one plant has so many applications, can usually be used in conjunction with other plants without fear, and they're available to average people who don't have a PhD!

Besides the benefits already mentioned, green tea is highly enzyme-active for weight-loss. It is a good fasting tea, providing energy support and clearer thinking. It helps bronchial dialation against asthma. Green tea is anti-carcinogenic (fights against cancer), antibacterial (the Chinese used it to purify water), and antimicrobial which means it's great for the skin. It may hinder some causes of high blood pressure. It promotes fat-burning, regulates blood sugar and insulin and keeps hunger at bay. And these are just a few more of its many benefits.

Of course, as with anything good that God created, there is a point of diminishing returns. A few cups of green tea per day can be a great boost to your health, but a cup or two every hour--especially if you add 1-8 tsp of sugar to it--will no longer benefit your health.

All things in moderation. Didn't Paul say something about that?

Bless the Lord who has made all things good and good for us. Then go ahead and drink that cup of tea in your hands.  Enjoy the health benefits as well as the comfort it brings.

Try this recipe:

Orange Green Tea, created by Me :-)

1+ Tbsp Loose Green Tea (Gunpowder, for a robust flavor; Sencha for a lighter flavor; or any other to your taste)
1 Pot (6-8 cups) almost boiling water (Do not bring it to the point of boiling)
1/2 organic Orange Peel
1 Cinnamon Stick (optional)

Let steep for five minutes or more. Pour into cups and add Honey or Agave to taste.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Contrary to Nature

This week I've been pondering a spiritual principle that is contrary to nature. That's right. I always focus on aspects in nature that point to God or illustrate a spiritual principle, but this week I see a spiritual principle that defies nature.

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7

If you want something or someone to flee from you in the natural, physical realm, you usually lash out. Attack another person and they'll probably flee. If two armies face each other in battle, each wants to make the other side flee. They do it by aggression, bigger weapons, more ammunition, a larger army.

Not so in the spirit realm. Our enemy, the devil, comes at us with lies, doubts, fears of every kind and accusations. His attacks are in our minds to defeat us before we get started. We can try to fight with words in return. "You no good, lousy fallen angel! I hate you. . . " But that only pleases him.

"Ah-Ha, I've got them on the defensive," he says to himself.

Or we can take a real sword and swing it in the air, hoping to slice that sneaky, back-stabbing, Air-Prince. But we won't hit our mark that way either.

Nope, all we need to do is resist. Resist the thoughts he plants in our minds as soon as they float through our grey matter.


We know the truth. And we know Him who is Truth.

If Satan attacks with a barrage of thoughts that demonstrate our worthlessness. We remember our absolute worth to Christ. We are so valuable to him, that he laid down his life for ours. He lived, taught, suffered persecution and ridicule because he valued us!

If he attacks with temptation, for example, "You know how much you need that new Kitchen Aid. You'd use it more than most people who own one. Sure, it's over $500.00 and you can't afford it, but it will be worth every penny." We quickly respond with, "God will supply my every need, so I must not need that, at least not now or God would've provided for it by now." Or we could respond by saying, "Patience is a fruit of the Spirit God must want me to learn right now."  Go to the root of the temptation and remember that God doesn't tempt.

Knowing God's character and knowing the truth demonstrated in Scripture gives us firm ground to stand on when we resist Satan's lies.

How different from the natural world. But what a powerful principle in the spiritual world.

Don't accept the junk he feeds your mind.

Resist and watch him flee!

Hmm, what kind of recipe goes along with this lesson??

Why don't you give me suggestions this time? Just post a recipe or link to a recipe in the comments section. Try to make it delicious and natural. Thanks!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winter Rest

"There is an appointed time for everything." 
Ecclesiates 3:1

How about a time for warmth and a time for cold? Solomon didn't mention it, but I'm sure he meant to. Times for sleep and times for action? Of course. Our body would defy us if we stayed in action-mode continuously.

Outside my window, all of nature is covered in a thick blanket of white. It's barren and still.

Have you ever noticed how loud sound is when there's snow on the ground? Or how people tend to whisper just after a new snow? Shhhhh . . . Listen.

Winter is a season that lends itself to rest. Plants sleep away the long, cold months as do some animals. I catch myself gazing at my couch longingly some afternoons. Mornings and evenings are so dark, sleep seems the perfect remedy. And although I still have a full schedule, my body craves more rest.

My spirit, too, needs a respite from activity. Time to be still in the presence of the Lord and know Him. Refresh the spirit to be ready for whatever God intends for us in the coming moments of the coming year. 

Nature demonstrates the wisdom of rest during these barren months. Seeds don't sprout, plants don't grow, they don't photosynthesize. These simply sleep, silent and barren as if dead. But in a few months they will be renewed!

Let us also take some time during this quiet season to rest. Go ahead, plan a few extra hours of sleep--write it in to you schedule if need be. And let's not forget to guard those quiet moments with our Heavenly Father.

"Be still and know that I am God." 
Psalm 46:10

Be restored and be refreshed.

**Note: Our small group has just started a series on the character of God by Chip Ingram. It has already challenged me to get to know Him better. Our understanding of God dictates our theology and our way of living. A great way to renew the spirit is to get to know God.Check out this link to hear Chip talk about God's goodness.

More veggies for simplifying and cleansing your diet:

1 Potato, cut into thick slices
1/2 head Broccoli, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
Some Cabbage, preferably purple, cut into 2-3 inch strips

Steam all ingredients in a small amount of water until not hard (not too soft).
Put the mixture on a plate and top with butter (if you're not fasting that), salt and pepper.
It's delicious!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Foodie Fasting

Mind you, I'm not doing a complete fast, but I'm limiting my diet for a week to fruit and veggies with some whole grains (not flour). But I have to confess that any type of fasting is hard. So much of my time is spent planning for, buying for and cooking meals, not to mention eating, that I forget I'm fasting several times throughout each day and start to eat something I shouldn't. I also get a little grouchy when I can't please my palate. But I guess this is the reason I'm fasting.

Celebrating is important. There are more celebrations in the Bible than fasts. But fasting is important too. How easy it is to satisfy the flesh! For example, my son has birthday cake and pie (that his friend made and gave him) sitting around in my kitchen. I've almost taken a bite out of one or the other three times while preparing meals in the last 24 hours. And these aren't even something I'd normally eat--at least not a lot--but when I'm fasting my flesh screams, "UNFAIR!"

I feel sorry for my flesh as it squirms and screams, but you see, like a small child, it must be put back in its proper place. If I never discipline my flesh, deprive it, or make it uncomfortable, then it gets out of hand. It starts to believe it's my god and should control all of my decisions. Worst of all, it becomes more and more difficult to please, like most deities of our own making. The most delicious delicacies become mundane. Like a spoiled child, my flesh whines unable to be satisfied.

So this week I'm putting the child down for a nap. The flesh needs this discomfort. And afterward I will relish each and everything I choose to put in my mouth, recognizing the Lord's provision. I and my flesh will have a renewed sense of thanksgiving.

So here's to the New Year, as I dedicate it to my Lord and Savior (and not to my flesh).

Invigorating Salad Concoction:

Good for a refreshing side dish on a normal winter day or a main dish during a fruit & veggie fast.

Nappa cabbage, thinly sliced
Shredded Carrots
Red Pepper, thinly sliced
Bean Sprouts
Lemon Juice

Mix the cabbage and carrots. Top with a few slices of red pepper and bean sprouts. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top.

Even the flesh can't deny it's great taste!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Inspiration and Resolutions

I've had new inspiration to begin to blog again. I am a naturalist and a part-time foodie. Recently my husband and I watched the movie, Julie and Julia--instant inspiration! Julie in the movie is a writer who's written half of a novel--Oh, can I relate to that, I've written several halves of novels--she's also a foodie, someone who's interested in gourmet food and cooking. She begins blogging about cooking all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm tempted to take up the same challenge, but I'd rather continue cooking healthy, natural food, which is also tasty (not to say that Child's book doesn't include natural recipes, because French cooking uses natural ingredients) and blog about food, nature and the One who made them both.

My goal is to blog at least once a week, more if possible.

Speaking of goals, everyone in my office is on a diet. It being January 6th, I guess it's expected. I too would like to loose a few pounds, but how is the all consuming question.

I've heard that health clubs get hundreds of people joining beginning in January. They come faithfully and the gym is full for weeks until about March by which time the majority have lost interest. I'm sure the health clubs don't mind at all, they still get the year-long membership fees.

And what about diets? The number diets out there is mind-boggling.

Here's my suggestion for a natural, healthy plan to lose weight: Cut out white flour and sugar. Of course there will be some exceptions and special days, but it is possible on a regular day. Now, if you already eat this way, you'll have to get more strict, or just exercise more, but if you don't, this is a great way to lose weight without counting calories or following a strict, complicated diet plan.

Don't forget to exercise regularly. Exercise burns calories--allowing you to eat more ;-) -- and it increases energy. But if you join the gym keep it up throughout the year if only to get your money's worth or else your resolution for 2011 will be a better financial plan.

In this new year I pray you enjoy food, enjoy good health and enjoy the Creator who delights in you and made these for you to enjoy!

View Julie Powell's current blog.

Here's a delicious recipe without flour or sugar:

Polenta w/Veggies and Mushroom Ragout
Lund's & Byerly's Real Food Winter 2008, page 56
1 C Instant Polenta or Cornmeal
2 C Milk
1 C Water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, shredded

8 ounces White Mushrooms, quartered
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 small Onion, sliced into strips
2 Tbspn Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1 Tbspn Thyme, chopped
1 15-oz can Kidney Beans, drained
2 Tbspn Tomato Paste
1/2 C Creme Fraiche or Cream
1/2 tsp Salt

Prepare a pie pan by lightly rubbing it with olive oil. Ina 2-qt saucepan, bring themilk and water to a simmer. Whisk in polenta in steady stream and add salt. Reduce heat to med-low and stir the mixture until thick, about 3-5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in Parmesan then transfer to the prepared pie pan and smooth the top. Chill. Prepare the veggies and reserve. Heat a large saute pan over med-high heat and add oil*; then add vegetables and cook, stirring. When mushrooms are browned and seared, and peppers and onions are tender, add garlic and thyme and stir for 2 minutes. Add beans and stir to heat through. In a cup, stir tomato paste with cream; then add to the pan and cook until thickened slightly. Take off heat and keep warm. Salt to taste. Preheat broiler. Oil a baking sheet and slice the polenta in 6 wedges. Lightly oil the toops of the wedges and broil them 6 inches from the heat. Watch them carefully and turn when the tops are golden and crisp. When the polenta is hot and crispy on the edges, serve with ragout.

*Taking the idea from Julie Powell, I browned the mushrooms in butter first, set them aside, then cooked the other veggies in the leftover butter with a little olive oil added. I then added the mushrooms back in when I stirred in the tomato/cream. And, Julie, if you're reading this, I didn't crowd the mushrooms. ;-)