Focus and the Peace Pipe

Someone I respect posted a blog today.  I have a lot higher priorities than blogging right now, but I couldn’t NOT respond to what he said here.  So today was an investment.  Even though I’ve never met him, he’s a child of God, and worth every minute of my time. He could be my child.  My other priorities will have to happen later. Mama’s about to have a tellin’ –

I remember my first drug deal.  It was a shady street on the other side of town, probably nice enough in daylight and not much different from the street where I was born, but it wasn’t too friendly from this angle.  I was left outside in a car with a couple of very trashy girls while the guys who’d professed to our fathers they’d take care of us with their lives had disappeared inside – which house, I wasn’t sure.  For a long time.  I finally got out of the smoke-filled car so I could breathe, and went for a walk.  In the days before cell phones, it was sometimes difficult to call Dad for a rescue.  Just as I decided to go knock on a door, the guys came out, laughing and ready to go have a fun time.  All the time I’d spent primping and preening for my date – I now stunk like an ashtray, my head was splitting from toxicities audible and airborne, and now I had to listen to a lame excuse as to why it was ok for me to have been temporarily abandoned for something much more interesting.

It was just this side of the transaction I’d never seen.  My brother had a small nursery in his room upstairs that was the envy of all the neighbor teens.  He had a small income on top of his job.  I helped him, on occasion, to clean the seeds.  After he vacationed in Hawaii, I learned to tell the difference between the acrid smell of the crappy local stuff and the full bodied, richer Kona Gold and Maui Wowie.  I guess I had a nose for nuances even then.  We laughed when somebody sold an oregano joint to a stupid kid who wanted to grow up faster.  We cried a few years later when someone laced a roll for the same, now stupid teen, and he ended up in the mental hospital permanently.  Some of the older kids said he had it coming; he was always an idiot.  I felt badly; he was a really nice kid.

All my friends did it, so it couldn’t have been that bad.  Every so often you heard a story of a bad trip and seeing spiders on all the walls of your home or somesuch.  That was a gauntlet of sanity I never wanted to experience.  I stayed away from it all.  They laughed at me.  It wasn’t until a decade had passed that several of them mentioned I was the only smart one in the group.  I’d drawn my line and never crossed it.

I never wanted to be in a place where I was not firmly in control of my own faculties.

As I got older,  I began learning about herbs in order to heal childhood maladies without going broke at the pharmacy.  Remember, I’d already drawn my line with the drug dealers.  I came across Lobelia, or Indian tobacco.  The kids knew if they got really sick, it wouldn’t be long before I rubbed it on their feet and made them smell like an old Indian chief.  I fear it for all the dire warnings that accompany its description, but I’m drawn to its power and adaptogenic properties.  I still use it when I need it.

But we don’t play with the peace pipe recreationally.

Ps.104:14 says that we have been given “herbs for the service of man.”  The legal status of pot has given it a position – it’s become the logo for rebellious teens all across the country for several generations instead of just another herb for holistic health.

William Dufty, in his book Sugar Blues, compared drugs to alcohol and sugar and concluded with one statement:  “Junkies die of junk.”

We are all dying of our sins – this is the human condition.  If you repeatedly give your body unnecessary substances, physically or spiritually, eventually you’ll be unhealthy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s socially acceptable or not.  Red Bull, fast food, or weed isn’t the substance of the argument.

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.”  (1 Cor. 3:17)

I didn’t draw my line on smoking, drugs and illegality back in the day because of the moral high ground.  Far from it – I was afraid I’d be the one to die, first time out.  A medicinal herbalist will call for help if someone has a reaction, because he/she has no fear of the light.  Lawbreakers don’t want light shed on their activities, because 9-1-1 responders don’t care about whether what you’re doing should be legal.  You both know it’s not.

A little side note here: my dentist found that I am VERY sensitive to substances.  He remarked that I would’ve been the one in a million to OD on my first try.

But most people never have a problem and eventually dismiss those years as “adolescence”.   My brother went on to teach doctors about drugs and their interactions internationally.  Experts are amazed at his command of the subject.  Others, though, lulled by their successful foray into rebellion with no repercussions, continued to rebel in other areas as well, and stayed wasted.

Wasted lives.

Are Christians perfect?  Hardly.  Many of them think they are because they don’t smoke pot or frequent bars..  But really, we’re all humans, tainted by sin and a propensity to flirt with darkness.  The devil is cunning and will twist God’s goodness to entice us away from righteousness.  Knowing this, do we dare go off our own way -to the other side of the laws He has explicitly given us-  effectively leaving Him in the smoky backseat until we come back with a lame excuse of “it shouldn’t be illegal anyway”?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)  I have a hard time envisioning passing a bong around a room full of wasted dudes and sharing Cheetos as a way to bring glory to God.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

It’s not the herb or a particular thing that’s the problem.  It’s your heart regarding it.

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray 
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

–      Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade”

 

For another interesting article on this topic, see here.

 

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Chasing Wellness

Swim LessonsHow are you doing on your fitness resolutions? Yeah, right.  If you’re at all like me, nothing was accomplished yesterday.  But today’s a new day. The best part of every morning is the opportunity to start over.  And even if you only put one foot forward today, it’s progress.  We all have to start somewhere.  It’s in the keeping going that success is found.

Nutrition is the first step to achieving overall health, although it is often overlooked.  Just like with a car, junk fuel means junk performance.  A steady diet of Cheetos and Mountain Dew doesn’t translate to having the competitive edge at the next 5K.  Aim for less sugar and junk carbs while pushing more colorful vegetables into your main meals.  That’s it.  No wild diets or crash programs that run you into the ground faster than last year’s Bikini Body program.  Eat Smart, Move More is a good, workable philosophy.

But let’s be realistic. Accept that we will all make regrettable food choices, most likely today. There will be office and tailgate parties where “imitation food product” is the only option.  So have a backup plan for when the judicious chef’s salad can’t fend off the  hot fudge marshmallow banana split chasing it down.  Running all those calories off before bedtime isn’t really feasible.  Smart planning, ahead of time, is the ticket to long-term health.  Plan what you will eat at the next meal – before you’re hungry for it – and put exercise onto the calendar to keep any splurges in check.

KayakingSo many people think exercise must mean running.  It doesn’t.  Physical fitness is a combination of cardiovascular strength, muscular strength, and flexibility.  6-pack abs look amazing, but they won’t help much when trying to keep up with toddlers for an entire afternoon or washing your back in the shower.  It takes all three to be truly fit.  Focus on endurance one day, muscle tone the next, and stretch out the kinks on Day 3 to achieve a comprehensive fitness program with the added benefit of keeping up interest over the long haul.

Getting your head in the game will be a huge asset.  It is much easier to actually move off the bed each morning if there’s something fun to do.  “Let’s go pump iron” sounds like work. Dogs are great exercise buddies since they have to go out in the morning anyway.  Grab the leash and go find some bunnies together!  Going farther or faster – or both – is more realistic once you’re out the door. Look for what inspires you to choose health, whether it’s not ruining a good workout with junk food or a buying a new outfit to reinforce improved eating and exercise habits.  Small strides in all these areas will add up and synergy will begin to work for you.

But that’s just physical stuff.  You and I are made of more than just flesh and bone.  We are made in the image of God; our bodies are His temple and His Spirit (should) reside in us.  Spiritual nutrition and exercise are necessary for health on this third plane.  Just like food for our bodies, the Bible contains the essential elements for fueling a healthy life.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

There are few people who will say the Bible is an easy read.  It must be chewed thoroughly, frequently, and in its totality (no spitting out the onions!) before being put into practice.  Real life exercise of Biblical principles is essential to full incorporation.  This is harder work still.  But no pain, no gain, right?  If we are to remodel ourselves and approach total wellness, all the aspects must be part of the program. The Apostle Paul said, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:8)

We are not just getting ready for the high school reunion.  Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).  The food of Scripture and the blood of His life must so completely infuse us that the exercise of total wellness overflows into our surroundings.  And the ripples from that could make a big impact over time.

The Wheelbarrow Concept

I have a book on my shelf titled, “The Cure is in the Kitchen”. It’s a rather off-the-deep-end book nutritionally, but I just really like the title. It helps me to stay focused on what’s truly important in my family’s health. In spite of so much research into finding the magic key to different diseases, the statistics alone point to our diet. The genetic component of most diseases appears to have more to do with the family recipe box than DNA.

Every day, I see how obesity and diabetes rates have risen beyond all probability. Autism has gone from being one child in a thousand to one in sixty-six, while bipolar disorder and ADD have become household words – just in the last 20 years. These bits of news frighten me, but they haven’t affected me. Allergy and food sensitivity, issues which also have skyrocketing statistics, broadsided me early. My oldest son was only two when he went deaf and doctors couldn’t resolve the fluid constantly plugging his ears and throat.

Since their treatments weren’t working, finding the cause became hugely important. It helped to find out what he was reacting to, even though I already sensed much of what the tests showed. He was allergic to more than 50 common food items, and was sensitive to many neighborhood trees. How was I supposed to deal with that?

I began watching how he felt and acted each day as clues to what, exactly, was affecting him, along with when and how. I journaled everything he ingested, along with his emotions and activities. Merely reading labels wasn’t enough; I found that I could only trust whole foods I’d prepared myself. I had an especially hard time cutting back our sugar intake, but was encouraged to find the reason. According to Mercola.com, sugar is highly addictive and lab rats will choose it over cocaine, even if they are already addicted to the drug. Sugar causes a myriad of neural symptoms, many of which are subtle. Kicking it will be hard, but the paybacks are big.

As I learned to make more foods from better ingredients, I also taught the children to make their own cookies and desserts. This had a two-fold purpose: limiting their intake to what they were willing to make and eliminating any hidden ingredients. They also learned some very useful life skills along the way. Yet the trademark allergic symptoms of plugged ears and nasal congestion continued to plague us, and little brother was showing some symptoms that might possibly be autism.

The turnaround point came when I learned about the “wheelbarrow concept”. On any building site, workers haul loads of rocks, dirt, and bricks. Each load is heavy, but the workers manage it. While it’s tempting to want to just make one heavy load of everything, that load overwhelms the tools available. Essentially, what the wheelbarrow concept explains is that no worker can haul rocks, bricks, and dirt together in his wheelbarrow without it tipping over or breaking.

It translates to food this way: while I know my kids don’t handle milk products well, they can eat them in moderation. Sugar is not normally a problem, nor is corn. However, combine them in a bowl of Frosted Flakes – pile three small things into the wheelbarrow together – and they become giddy and boisterous. About an hour later, they crash, more distraught than if their dog had died. The reaction is totally out of proportion to the ingredients and not always obviously related to what they ate several hours previously. Add a cheeseburger and a soda for lunch (more corn syrup and milk products), and the body begins protecting itself by producing mucous in the ears or inflammation in the gut.

Knowing to avoid one item or another was great – but synergy works negatively as well. Several items that aren’t significant stressors on their own combine together to make a big reaction.

This little tidbit of information shouldn’t be all that earth-shattering. Doctors have known for a long time that prescribing too many drugs to old folks will cause more problems than Granny started with. Food is no different. To a person with grass allergies, eating wheat bread during hayfever season could be life threatening. Realizing that it may not be one allergen but a combination of seemingly fine foods helps to define the problem so as to find the solution.

Once I’d figured out which combinations were problematic, I separated them into groups. Corn, milk, and wheat went onto separate days. Each group was eaten no more often than once in every four days. The idea is to give the body time to clear small problems singly and not overload it with troublesome combinations. It also ensured we were eating a varied diet, which began building our immune systems to handle allergens more efficiently. Within four months, the food sensitivities began to subside, as did the autistic suspicions. My weight normalized and seasonal illnesses no longer haunted us. While a rotation diet of whole foods is not a panacea, it sure went a long way toward lowering our medical bills.

And that was the proof Daddy needed that the slight extra on the food budget was a good investment.

Choosing Health

“NO, NO!! BAD DOG!! NO!!!” The words carried all the way through the walls of the kitchen into my shower this morning. The commotion had moved to outside my door when I heard another, softer, voice: “Ohhh, that was naughty. Outside with you now.”

Buddy’s at it again. Sure glad this pup is going to his new home today. He’s a nice dog, but he just cannot resist unattended food. My son lost only a small part of his bagel this time, but the other half had a mark where an attempt had been made on it, too. At five months old, Buddy is a big, sturdy mix of hound and who-knows-what, a heart full of love and a tummy that’s always empty.

I wish I had the same excuse – that I’m a growing pup with no self-control. That would be convenient. No, I definitely know better. I don’t need that bagel anymore than I need the extra dog, but when it called my name, all good intentions went out the window. I was focused on health today; colorful salads and smoothies were planned instead of breads. And yet one look at that abandoned half of a cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted with cream cheese on top, off center on its napkin where it’d been bumped during the heist – I was done for.

If the devil wore red tights and carried a pitchfork, we’d all recognize him. No, no…. he comes disguised in your favorite comfort food or those hot red pumps, luring you to drop your good convictions and sell your soul for a moment of indulgence.

And I do know better. I’ve been studying health and nutrition for 16 years now, and know far too much to allow something as silly as a white flour bagel to undermine me. You’d think. I’ve been learning more and more about how grains very quickly turn to sugars in the human body, useful as immediate energy but transforming quickly into those extra pounds on my hips if I don’t go running the minute I eat them. I’ve also been noticing how, if I eat bread, my belly almost instantly bloats. In two years of watching my weight, it’s gone up two pounds every weekend – when I eat out. A bagel for breakfast and a sandwich and soda for lunch on Sunday are all it takes for me to look like the Pillsbury Doughboy until Tuesday.

That bloat cannot be good for me. So, since soda’s not a huge issue for me – I can take it or leave it and I’m more prone to the latter – I’m focusing on breads. Should be easy enough. Yet the minute I dropped bread from the menu, my cravings for chocolate went completely out of control. I’ve never been able to give up chocolate, only switch to higher quality so the impact of fillers and sugar is lessened.

Now my reading took a scary turn. “In one study, when rats were allowed to choose either sweetened water or cocaine, an astonishing 94 percent of rats chose the sweet water. Even rats that were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar once it was offered as a choice.” (Mercola.com)

I’m up against a powerful force here. I can drop sugar itself in a heartbeat, but not chocolate. And my handmade artisan breads? Please don’t tell me that what I’ve so lovingly crafted, grinding and fermenting fresh wheat berries, kneading until my arms ache and then filling the house with that oh-so-wonderful aroma isn’t good for me and my family. But the reality is that I only get to that maybe once a month now; it’s the everyday sandwich and a chocolate chip cookie (or three) that is actually a shortcut to disease. I’m starting to have more empathy for my fellow man, who doesn’t appear to be fully aware of the dangers inherent in his lunch.

Grains cause low-level inflammation in many people (me) which is easily overlooked and a sign of the body’s struggle to cope with a problem which, if left unaddressed, will eventually turn into something more serious. Diabetes and cancer were rare diseases in my grandmother’s day. Yet their growth rate corresponds very closely to that of fast food establishments and sugary boxed cereals. What I see on my belly is an outgrowth of the standard American diet, overly reliant on corn and wheat – it is not fat, it is a major illness’s first symptoms.

Sugar, and grains turning into sugar, are in everything we eat. It’s obvious that I have no more willpower than this pup and am sucked into warm breads and chocolate chip cookies more certainly than if Scotty himself were beaming me. But every attempt I make at dietetic self-control points out again how very weak I am. Making whole grain Ding-Dongs from scratch may impress the kids, but it won’t kick my sugar addiction.

Eve doesn’t look like such a doofus anymore, taking the forbidden fruit from the serpent. I seek it out and prepare it myself.

I’m brought back to the very feet of God.

And then I came across the simplest, most basic factor in all my research. As a homeschool teacher, I’ve taught science, botany, and biology. Essentially, the way each cell works is to give up waste products in exchange for nutrients. If the exchange rate or route is messed up, disease or death results.

Wait, wait – “exchange waste for nutrients”? “Now [we] are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) In my relationship with God, I am always trying to make myself acceptable to Him, somehow cleaner, nicer, and more worthy of His work in me. Stay with me here – I’m thinking out loud. If we are the body, we are doing work in the physical world, becoming dirtied and used up in the process. That is the design. It is only as we exchange our waste for His purity that we are nourished to continue and grow. We must accept His life into our very being with nothing but trash to give back. It seems a crappy exchange to our materialistic minds, but it’s just another fact of life. This is how stuff works.

<pGod has surrounded me with nutritious foods designed to perfectly nourish my body. I need to take them, not the counterfeit packages of more industrial waste that men pawn off on each other. I need to turn away from the cookie and soda and choose fresh, whole foods in order to make an impact and go the long haul. This is His temple, after all. /p>

Dr. Stanley S. Bass took it one step further. “

Nowhere is the principle of forgiveness of sins more manifest than here – in our own bodies – when we forsake our evil and destructive ways of eating (the defiling of the temple of the soul). God (or Nature, if you please) gives us a whole new chance for a new glorious life.

All repentance must begin here in the body, through pure diet and natural foods. Then, just have faith, sit back and watch what happens.

If I will merely turn my back squarely on the grains and sugars until I break their hold over me – asking for His strength to do so – and seek out His best in food both physical and spiritual, I will be remade new and healthful.