Category Archives: God’s Creation

Like a River

This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:

We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .

I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.

I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!

Iowa River
Courtesy breac.nd.edu

And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.

But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:

  • Mark Twain and his biting wit
  • All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma,  that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
  • Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
  • Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
  • TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
  • Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.

Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.

 

Eternal Life – Part 2 – Worlds Without Number

Once the Hubble Telescope was launched and repaired, scientists could see far deeper into the universe than ever before. They focused on the darkest spot they could find in the heavens, then counted the number of galaxies they could see. They were stunned to see at least 10,000.

Galaxies in Hubble Deep Field
Courtesy Pixabay.com

How many stars is that? Estimates range from 100 to 400 billion stars just in our own Milky Way! 10,000 galaxies x 100,000,000,000 stars is huge and that’s the conservative estimate for just that one spot. Scientists estimate there are between 125 billion to 2 trillion galaxies in the whole universe. I won’t even tackle how many stars that is. This gives new meaning to worlds without number – see below.

Billions of Stars in a Single Galaxy
Courtesy Pixabay.com 

In the LDS scripture, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses, we read:
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:33).  This may not be authoritative for non-members of the Mormon Church, but in the New Testament we read:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of having my own world or “mansion” is pretty thrilling. Think how much we enjoy a new home, however modest. I’m having a blast feathering my nest in my new house and cultivating a large garden. How about designing and cultivating an entire world! This makes any sacrifice I make to walk the Christian path seem minuscule and puts fresh heart into me for the uphill climb.

From Psalms 8:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet . . . .

This post harkens back to an earlier one, The Three Pillars of Eternity: #1 The Creation. None of what I’ve said above makes any sense if we don’t believe there’s a Creator and that He consciously created not just this world, but all worlds. Is there a God? If so, where does that belief lead us? How does that influence how we live and how we regard the future? These are all questions I think the stark realities of mortality pose to each of us individually.

I, for one, choose to believe and live with faith and hope. Good wishes to all in your journey through this mortal life.

The Milky Way Seen Through Utah’s Delicate Arch
Courtesy Pixabay.com

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #1 The Creation

An LDS scholar and Apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, defined the parameters of mortal existence as The Three Pillars of Eternity:

  1. The Creation
  2. The Fall
  3. The Atonement

I love this and want to write about each one, as we usually only hear a secular view of life: we evolved out of chaos and we live a life based only on our own efforts til death ends it all. The Christian view is significantly different: life is created by God, mortality tests and refines us, and we have a promise of life after death.

Mormon doctrine agrees with these basic tenets but adds something more: that human beings have a dual nature: The Natural (or Biological) Man and The Spiritual (or Idealistic) Man. The Natural Man provides needed instincts and energy. The Spiritual Man provides sane management of the animal within, necessary for civilized life.

As I understand it, the secular world asserts that the Theory of Evolution totally accounts for the origin of life and of human beings – arising from chaos and evolving into complex life forms, one small increment at a time. Christians have maintained that God “created” the earth, the heavens and all life therein as a conscious, systematic act, as stated in the Bible: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) These two theories have then been presented to the public as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable. Those in the “Science Camp” shout down “Creationism”; and I even know a local Christian high school that doesn’t teach any science at all – only the religious doctrine of creation! But are they truly mutually exclusive?

My education says “No.” I was raised in the beating heart of a Big Ten university in the Midwest, attending a University lab school from first through twelfth grade. Many of my classmates were children of professors, and I didn’t know what a bad teacher was as all were select graduate students or university professors themselves. We were urged to think independently but responsibly. All our teachers acknowledged that “the more they learned, the more they realized they didn’t know.” Most students and teachers loved learning and displayed this basic humility. In college, I soon learned to distinguish between the true seekers of knowledge and the infrequent “know-it-all’s” I encountered. When I saw professors go head-to-head over an apparent theoretical impasse, I just sat back and watched the fireworks. A year or two later when an academic resolution was inevitably reached, I chalked up their posturing and fights as just so much unnecessary ego. I believed then, and still do, that Truth exists independent of men’s opinion.

Then I joined the Mormon Church at age 31. As part of the Temple ceremony, I heard the phrase, All truth is circumscribed into one great whole. That resonated with me and I still believe it. In other words, there are no ultimate irreconcilable conflicts in eternal truth. And one day God will show us the true origins of life and answer all the questions we still have: the real age of the earth, whether or not biblical time frames were literal or symbolic, what happened to the dinosaurs, and many more.

I think because learning and technology have advanced so rapidly and so dramatically in modern times, we have become dazzled by it and have forgotten to look beyond man’s achievements – beyond the Natural Man’s reach. We’ve forgotten that God is a perfect being who knows infinitely more than we do and who also has our best interests at heart. He wants to share all His knowledge and power with us, but only as we acknowledge Him and obey His teachings.

Could it be that some people haven’t forgotten God but are nevertheless happy to throw Him out of their lives, along with His unwelcome rule book, clearly defining good and evil? In a reference I cannot now place, an LDS scientist recounted a conversation with a secular scientist who openly admitted that many scientists supported the Theory of Evolution’s explanation for the origins of life so they could go on committing adultery without consequence! This was surely the Natural Man speaking . . . .

It’s a lot like a classroom of fifth graders, whose teacher is suddenly called away but leaves clear instructions on the homework they are to complete, then they are left to manage themselves for a time. Soon the class degenerates into those who want to work as instructed and those who just want to have fun. Conflict and chaos erupt, both sides labelling the other, either “goody goodies” or “lazy good-for-nothings.” The obedient kids huddle in their own small groups while noise and chaos reign as a whole. Bullies emerge and claim the class doesn’t need their teacher; they will take charge and throw out the old rules. Those who don’t play along are shamed and persecuted. History shows similar patterns in society when God and His rule book are tossed aside, and the result is always chaos and destruction. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them is a maxim too often forgotten.

I maintain that civilization was built on rules the Spiritual Man recognizes and supports as universal. I further maintain that God blesses those civilizations with prosperity and protection as long as they honor what I call “The Laws of Life” – essentially the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. And He “upholds all things by the word of his power” – protection that can be withdrawn:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past
unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us
by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,
by whom also he made the worlds
;
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
and upholding all things by the word of his power,
when he had by himself purged our sins,
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
(Hebrews 1:1-3)

What do we each believe? How do those beliefs influence our actions and our lifestyle? Integrity demands our actions line up with our true beliefs, so if we talk the Christian talk, shouldn’t we look more deeply at God’s Rule Book to see if we’re “walking the walk”?

My own faith – unabashedly a “revealed religion,” revealed by God, not voted on by mortals – says that God has not revealed the details of the Creation and therefore we have no clear answers, for now. But we also believe in continuing revelation through authorized prophets and believe that those answers will come forth in God’s own time.

In the meantime, I live with faith. I support the laws of life as I understand them, and have been richly blessed for doing so. I wish all the rebellious “children” running our world today would take back the Rule Book and live by it. The world would be a more peaceful, prosperous and happy place, when the true Teacher returns.

And I also rejoice in a beautiful world that could not possibly have happened by accident.

Beautiful Earth Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Beautiful Earth
Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Do You Believe in God? Part 1

Coming out of science one day in 7th grade, my friend Sally asked me, Do you believe in God?  It took me by surprise, as we had never discussed religion before, and I answered candidly, I don’t know.

I decided to think about it and see what I really believed. I felt that if there was a God, He would be wise, loving, powerful, and all knowing. I thought that if there wasn’t a God, I would feel an emptiness in the universe, a lack of a larger consciousness than what I experienced within myself, from my family, and from the academic community around me. But I felt there was a consciousness around me that wasn’t human, that was bigger and wiser. It felt paternal. Furthermore, that being reacted to the things I said and did, just as a father would: either with approval when I was unselfish or hardworking, or with disappointment when I said something mean or did wrong. I don’t know if I told Sally, but I knew I believed in God. However, I didn’t stop my thinking there.

I lived across the street from an enormous City Park sloping down to the City Pool, then down another hill to a large area tucked into a bend of the Iowa River. It contained two ponds where we fed the ducks in summer and ice skated in winter. The 4th of July fireworks and carnival were held on the softball field there every year, plus there was a small zoo with rabbits, monkeys, buffalo, and peacocks. Though the park was well attended, it often seemed to be nearly empty. So we relished the playgrounds, leading each other around blindfolded, and sledding on the hills undisturbed. When I slept out on our screened-in front porch in the summer, I could hear the peacocks screaming in the night and owls hooting in the huge oaks across the street. There was a brooding consciousness over all the life that happened there. Since then Nature has always spoken to me of a loving caretaker and eternal, orderly mechanisms by which the universe unfolds and operates.

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

In college, I devoured philosophy and psychology looking for more answers. I rejected out of hand the existentialism of Sartre and Camus I found in French Lit. If you’re going to be that depressed, what’s the point of even living? I rejected behavioral determinism in learning theory because I experienced my own power of conscious choice. It was a “duh” moment, just like in the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have free choice because I exercised it myself and could see the results of both wise and foolish choices. And there was a spirit around “good” people who were self-sacrificing, hard working, intelligent and kind. They had a form of happiness that no amount of self-indulgence could create. I experienced that myself when I resolved to help out more at home and did so, or when I studied hard for a test and did my best. No donut, new outfit, or TV show gave me that!

Then Pete and I moved to New England for a grand adventure in country living. If I thought Nature spoke to me in Iowa, She set up a symphony in rural New Hampshire. I was awakened by thousands of birds at dawn, picked wild blueberries on Pitcher Mountain with its dizzying views, washed my hair under the small dam on Highland Lake, and enjoyed innumerable dinner parties with like-minded friends. Sadly, Pete and I didn’t continue our adventure together, but we each bought little country houses, burned wood, and drank sparkling well water. I was actively pursuing my own spirituality, learning meditation, astrology, visiting communes, and sharing insights with friends. One of them invited me to a Christian prayer group with the older ladies of our small town. There I learned about Christ’s invitation to come to Him in simple, sincere prayer and His promise to answer.

So one day, alone in my house, I knelt down by an upstairs dormer window and said my first official prayer: “God, if you’re there, I need to know it.” I went on to lay out my concerns for my children and the difficulties I faced providing a life for them on my own. I lay down on my bed and, no sooner than I did so, a waterfall of pure love poured all through me. It lasted for at least 2-3 minutes and soon I was crying tears of real joy. My search was over. I was a Christian. Not from belief, but from my own experience and knowledge.

My younger sister and mother had become active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since I’d left home, and they introduced me to the Restored Gospel and the power of a priesthood authorized by God. I learned that all throughout history, those people who lived true to their Christian faith were blessed, prospered, and protected. Here are the words of Moses from the Old Testament:

3 And Moses went up unto God,
and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying,
Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob,
and tell the children of Israel; 

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
and how I bare you on eagles’ wings,
and brought you unto myself.
[In freeing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt]
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed,
and keep my covenant
,
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,
and an holy nation
.
These are the words which thou shalt speak
unto the children of Israel.
(Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added)

You might ask yourself if this nation is still a Christian nation, keeping its original covenant with God and meriting His blessings and protections. See my earlier post on Covenant America, July 4, 2014, and more about my personal journey in About Janet.

More importantly, ask yourself the same question my friend Sally asked me so long ago: Do I believe in God? If you say, Yes, then you might ask yourself how you can participate in a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We are each just one little person, but we can all light our own candle and dispel darkness around us. I wish you Bon Voyage.

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy Pixabay.com

A Candle in the Darkness
Courtesy Pixabay.com

My Daily Bread

My prayer project this last month has been nothing short of amazing. I was given clear direction to radically dejunk my house and could see it freeing me creatively. I quickly outlined a detailed plan, singing the Hallelujah Chorus in my head.

The first three weeks went well with an increasing sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I was on a roll – or so I thought. Then a week ago, it all came crashing down. I lost my drive and only wanted out from under this big, crushing project.

I had lots of schedule conflicts until that Friday – then I had to face my long to-do list. So I grit my teeth and plunged in. Normally, my enthusiasm returns once I start moving. Not this day. I grumbled and resented every minute. Finally I sat in my living room and just cried in misery and frustration. But my determination was stronger, so Saturday I trudged grimly on. Finally, late in the day, satisfaction returned. Not only had I conquered several projects, I had conquered my own resistance.

What happened? I’m not entirely sure, but I think energy cycles just have a natural rhythm, and I had expected mine to just keep peaking, ignoring real needs for rest and relaxation. I’m also an Aries sun sign. We like to start things but lose interest more quickly than others do. Plus the sheer size of this project really hit home. I felt like the Miller’s daughter in Rumplestiltskin facing the largest room of straw needing to be spun into gold – utterly hopeless!

So what did I learn?

  • I was prompted to alternate heavy work days (Mon, Wed, Fri) with “catch-up days,” pacing myself. This last week brought sanity and joy back into my life, instead of endless pressure, as well as solid progress. Thank you, Lord!
  • I learned that while there are big, over-arching revelations that help us see the big picture and make plans, most of the time we just need to focus on today. So each morning I hold the possible tasks before me “up to the light” of higher wisdom. The ones that the Spirit lights up with enthusiasm stay on the list. I then remembered the Israelites leaving ancient Egypt for their exodus to the Promised Land. They wandered in the Sinai Desert for 40 years, miraculously finding water and eating Manna from heaven that appeared every morning. When they tried to save it for the next day, fearfully doubting a continuous supply, it spoiled and wouldn’t keep. Maggots developed and made it inedible. However, on the day before their Sabbath, Manna would keep for two days so they could honor the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, free for worship and rest.
  • I also learned to keep the day flexible. I was all set yesterday to finish copying precious ancestral documents from 80-100 years ago (left partly done from the day before) when I had a sudden lack of interest wash over me. Something in me said, “No, clean out your linen closet and pack up all your extra cleaning supplies and paper products.” So I dug in, and by day’s end my linen closet was transformed. I had a car load for storage, and I felt great about it. The documents were handled another day, and with more enthusiasm! Then I remembered the advice Corrie ten Boom’s father gave her, recorded in her book The Hiding Place. She had asked him as a child about the details of an upcoming train trip. He gave her a brief answer and asked her when she would be given her ticket. She answered, “Right before I get on the train.” He said, “That’s when you’ll know all the details. You don’t need to know everything until then. You can trust that I am handling them now.” Isn’t life often like that? Ancient hippie maxim: Just go with the flow!

Our spiritual “bread” that feeds and powers us forward is like that. Most of the time, we pick it up in the morning and it is only good for that day. Those answers won’t work or be right for the next day – they will “spoil” and may even bog you down in murky paths. There’s a difference between absolute right and wrong – principles that need to guide our big decisions – and  the “good, better, best” of daily living.

“Meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day
and precedes the temporal creation of the actual execution of the day.”
(Elder David A. Bednar, LDS Apostle)

God will lend us His vision if we but ask and then listen to it.

From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci The National Gallery, London, public domain image

From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci
The National Gallery, London, public domain image

 

 

 

The Resurrection of Daffodils

I always enjoy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts but today on Easter Sunday, they hit it out of the park.  Their program ranged from the thundering Hallelujah Chorus from Christ on the Mount of Olives by Beethoven to an Irish tune, The King of Love My Shepherd Is, arranged by Conductor Mack Wilberg. 

But it was the Spoken Word that expressed my thoughts most closely. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s been said that God rewrites the book of Genesis every spring.
“In the beginning” takes on special meaning each year
as we witness the renewed life, the rebirth, and the new beginnings
that seem to be built in to earth’s cycle of seasons.
It’s as if nature itself is trying to tell us that whatever we are going through,
things can change—things can get better.
No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.
In that spirit, a poet once observed:
“I wonder if the Daffodil
Shrinks from the touch of frost,
And when her veins grow stiff and still
She dreams that life is lost?
Ah, if she does, how sweet a thing
Her resurrection day in spring!” *
That is the hope of this season. It is the assurance
that nothing is ever permanently lost, that no one is forever gone.
Indeed, heartbreak, discouragement—even death itself is not final,
as long as we have hope in that “resurrection day in spring.” 

Daffodils. Photo by Author

Daffodils. Photo by Author

The words “In the beginning” bring to mind the decades-old debate over Creationism vs Evolution. In my thinking lately, a common theme has emerged:

Is life random or orderly?

It might be easier to sort out our ideas if we think about what follows from these two possibilities?

  1. As I understand it, the essence of the Theory of Evolution is that all life evolved randomly. It that is true, then we can do whatever makes us happy now. We can be random. The only order is force, dominance, and “the survival of the fittest.” Does this produce true happiness? Or a lot of anxiety in an environment of bullies and victims?
  2. What answers do the evolutionists offer for the dilemma of mortality and the certainty of the grave? Certainly no comfort, no promise of an afterlife – only the cold ground and an end to consciousness and progression.
  3. With this bleak picture, why do so many people eagerly, even vehemently, embrace this belief? Could it be that they don’t want a leader that spoils their fun with strict rules?

But consider the ramifications of an orderly, created universe:

  1. Creationism or Intelligent Design says that the universe and all life was intentionally created and orderly in its operation. If the origin of life is indeed the random combining of elements with increasing complexity, why is the universe so orderly in its operation? Many scientists point out that life could not happen if any one of thousands of variables were off even slightly.
  2. The rules of Creation are the rules that support life. While we do have free choice in this life – to choose life or death, productivity or dissolution – we cannot choose the consequences of those choices.
  3. Could there be value in a God who is loving, perfect, and all powerful? Are we such competent beings that we need no help from someone wiser? Hasn’t history shown that we don’t do well left to our own devices, that the greatest civilizations are built on physical and moral order?
  4. While real sacrifices of immediate pleasure are required, order brings stability, peace, and true prosperity in this life, not just in qualifying us for a place in Heaven.
  5. Finally, it’s only in the Judeo-Christian religion that we have a real promise of resurrection from certain death and the hope of continuing our life’s journey after death, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Just as we prepare in high school to get into a good college and have a successful career, what we do now affects our experience after this life. Most of us understand that some sacrifice to safeguard our mortal future is necessary. Why wouldn’t that logic be even more true to safeguard our eternal future?

One system is Play Now, Pay Later (and pay big!). The other system is Pay Now, Play Later (and play gloriously!). But we don’t have to guess which is right. We can simply ask God to show us the true path through mortality into eternity. And it isn’t all or nothing – the Christian path is one of great joy. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

So my Easter message isn’t the usual one about bunnies, new beginnings, or even daffodils, but about life and death. I invite all to come to the throne of grace, to feel God’s love and promises for themselves. It’s my testimony that your prayer will be answered and that all of life’s sacrifices will be worth it.

In the end, it’s all good. If it’s not good, it’s not the end!    (Anon)

Daffodils, Courtesy Pixabay.com #288004

Daffodils, Courtesy Pixabay.com #288004

* from Emma C. Dowd, “Daffodil and Crocus,” in Country Life in America, Apr. 1902, p. 218

Spring Roads, New Life

My granddaughter stayed with me last weekend while my son’s family was out of town. We are Lord of the Rings fans, so over the course of four days, we watched all three LOTR movies, the extended versions! We each had our favorite scenes and characters: Aragorn and Legolas for Taylor, Theoden and Eowyn for me.

The weather was also unseasonably warm and balmy, so we went for a walk on our local riverside Greenbelt. We saw ducks, geese, and a surprising amount of new, green grass, and it was only early February! Falling for a long-standing cliche, seeing the new green grass made me reflect on all the new things appearing in my life. They seem to focus mainly on building better health, hopefully sprouting up as increased energy and leading to new adventures. Here’s the photo I shot that day:

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

First up: Homemade kefir that reminds me of the army of Rohan that helps rescue Gondor in the final battles of Middle Earth (The Return of the King). Kefir is like super yogurt providing 3-4 times more strains of good bacteria as well as healthy yeast. I culture a new batch every two or three days and drink some at bedtime with ginger and a little Stevia to soften the tangy flavor. I purchased my kefir grains online and use local raw milk. Check out my source on ebay. They have 100% positive ratings for good reason.

I start my day with homemade yogurt and fruit, using the same raw milk. Contact me if you want the Lazy Woman’s Yogurt recipe. I use Stoneyfield Farms organic plain yogurt as my initial starter since I like its mild, creamy flavor. I make 1-2 quarts at once, it keeps 10-14 days, and provides starter for the next batch.

I just received Sally Fallon Morrell’s new book Nourishing Broth. What an eye-opener! We’ve been robbed by the food industry who’ve substituted MSG and other artificial flavorings for old-fashioned, long simmered meat and bone broth. I highly recommend you look into it. Here are two sites for further information: Nourishingbroth.com and westonaprice.org of which Mrs. Morrell is President.

Rather than always making homemade versions, I’ll also buy some high quality extracts: Vital Proteins is the recommended source of collagen supplements. See: Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure for a source of “additive-free” foods and supplements, including the oils below.

I’ve also discovered the benefits of high quality fermented cod liver oil combined with healthy butter oil for maximum absorption of nutrients. The recommended brand is Green Pasture, in chocolate, cinnamon or plain flavors, available on multiple sites. Don’t buy into the food industry’s PR about saturated fats. My research shows that’s how they sell cheap vegetable oils for huge profits, none of which are healthy, according to more independent research. The Weston A. Price Foundation has recommended suppliers (which include all those listed here). I’ll rely on their research, but you should also do your own due diligence.

The more I learn about health, the more I realize our digestive tract is critical. Good probiotic bacteria manufacture B vitamins and other nutrients, is a major player in our immune system vanquishing the bad guys, not to mention breaking down and properly absorbing nutrients from our food.

Why let those orcs and trolls of disease dominate our health? We can call forth armies (Kefir, yogurt), wizards (nature’s foods) and ordinary Hobbits (good habits) to vanquish them. If you feel small and helpless in the face of the many assaults upon our health, remember Eowyn, the only woman on the battle field at Minas Tirith, who faced the Lord of the Nazgul. He threatened her with these words: No man can kill me. Her reply: I am no MAN and proceeded to plunge her sword straight into his head, ending his reign of terror. We too have power if we dig out nature’s precious knowledge and apply her remedies. I’m already reaping more energy from my daily yogurt and kefir routine.

Have a wonderful spring and remember Bilbo’s words from The Lord of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,
and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Isn’t that the point of good health – to be able to have those adventures and enjoy them?

Going Out the Door. Courtesy hdwallpapers.in

Going Out the Door. Courtesy hdwallpapers.in

 

A Deeper Surrender 3 – Stroke and Glide

I grew up across the street from a huge city swimming pool, so I took a lot of swim lessons. For years, though, I was afraid to spend much time underwater. Treading water for long periods of time was a favorite assignment of my teachers. I frantically paddled hard enough to always keep my head above water, quickly becoming exhausted. Ditto with swimming laps. So I was never completely at home in the water, unlike many of my friends who swam like fish. Was I just a weakling or did they know something I didn’t?

Living in New Hampshire at the foot of Highland Lake, I would swim in the clear, shallow water regularly. It was so peaceful that I let go of my anxiety, spending more and more time gliding through the water with my head and face below the surface. I got lost in limbo between earth, water, and sky, a welcome meditation. Later, several of us would swim after dark in remote Center Pond. I’d picture creatures lurking below the surface waiting to grab me and pull me down to unspeakable depths. But then I’d look up at the stars and the silent pine trees ringing the shore and lose myself again in that magical limbo world.

Finally, when I was teaching my daycare kiddies to swim, a professional swim teacher turned on the final light bulb. We all float and can just fully relax in the water; it’s just that most of us only reach that point when we’re completely underwater! Once we accept that, we can swim for hours if need be. Just try to float lower in the water than your body naturally wants to go – you can’t do it without real effort. The trick is to pair breathing in with a swim stroke that lifts our heads above water, then submerge, find our flotation point, and fully relax while we glide and exhale slowly through our noses.

The glide portion lasts two or three times longer than the stroke. Oddly, until we know better, we focus on the stroke since it’s the action part and necessary for moving forward. But as I mastered this swim style, I also came to appreciate the power of the glide. If I fully relaxed in the water, trusted the power of the previous stroke, and exhaled in a long, controlled breath, I could go on and on. And I found that I never sank very far in the water, no matter how much I relaxed. When I moved into an apartment complex with a large indoor pool, I could swim laps for surprising distances, racking up a half mile, then a mile. It was liberating and exhilarating to overcome those childhood fears and limitations.

I find that relating to my emotional, creative, and spiritual highs and lows is a lot like swimming laps. I appreciate the power of the glide here as well. The rest and reflection that my burned-out body force on me bear great fruit, perhaps as great as my bursts of energy and productivity. I sit in my comfortable chair, watching flocks of birds at my feeder, the “wall of green” beyond my patio undulating in the breeze, and new insights come to me that fuel the next “stroke” or push in life. And I find that the Lord never lets me sink below my spiritual “flotation” point as long as I’m truly reaching for Him.

I recently hit an emotional wall, feeling overly isolated, frustrated, and creatively constrained. But instead of frantically “swimming” against this downward force, I let myself glide through the underwater of my soul, checking out what I was really feeling and why, as well as what my many options for response were. I received insightful advice, solved a persistent sign-in problem on a web forum for like-minded people, and read a Guideposts story about its publisher’s stack of prayer requests that he turns to in odd moments – a good example of how I could serve even in tired moments. Doors started to open in my soul and in my life.

Living from my spiritual and creative “flotation point” has been both empowering and humbling. It’s allowed God into my soul. Next time you find yourself in a pickle, try a long glide under your conscious mind and see what surfaces.

The Tip of the Plow

I just finished a historical novel I absolutely loved, The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees). She writes about real-life sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké from a slave-owning upper class family in Charlotte, North Carolina. They both detested slavery and were pioneers in both the Abolitionist and Women’s Movements in the early 1800’s. Ms Kidd writes an imagined inner life for Sarah and her personal slave Handful that is beautifully drawn and fairly faithful to the facts. Their passionate dedication required intense personal sacrifice but they never compromised their principles.

This story reminded me of a phrase voiced by a former real estate broker discussing levels of risk in property investment.  Land is riskiest and developers are at the tip of the plow. They must invest a huge amount of money, time, and vision before they earn a single dollar. One wrong decision and they could lose it all. Certainly Sarah and Angelina were at the tip of their plow in both movements, and suffered greatly in the process.

It’s a vivid image: I picture the pioneer plow biting into tough prairie sod and the stress on it, the abrasion of stones and roots wearing the blade down quickly. The people behind the plow had to be equally tough. Others also come to mind: explorers, inventors, entrepreneurs, saints and martyrs. But are we, more ordinary people, ever at the tip of the plow? I know I have been and I have the emotional scars to prove it!

In the 1990’s I bought into a condo complex, recently converted from an apartment building. 48 different homeowners took over an aging building, electing seven of us to the first Board of Directors. We faced arcing electricity in the utility room, defective boilers and roof, plus thousands of bats under that bad roof! We buckled down, got legal advice, and solved those problems one at a time, first winning a settlement from the developers. I was treasurer and legal liaison, so many, many nights my stomach would be in knots about how to make these people accountable, how to sell extra assessments to our fellow owners so we could replace the roof, and how to unseat a volatile HOA President.

After five years, we triumphed over all these difficulties. Those of us in the vanguard were worn out and others were elected to carry on. They only had to deal with issues like enforcing the rule on uniform window coverings, kids running in the halls, and which lawn care company to use. I don’t regret my experience as it gave me the confidence I needed to tackle real estate at age 59 when I needed a change from teaching learning-disabled teenagers.

I reflected many times on the early scouts and pioneers who conquered the tough Midwestern prairie, harsh weather, and unfriendly native Americans. They were followed by the settlers who came in and built it up, in relative security. My Kent ancestors were settlers, not pioneers, building up Davenport, Iowa; opening a drugstore in nearby DeWitt; or starting the Photographic Dept. at the University of Iowa. I hope they appreciated those who came before and plowed the ground for them.

Where in your life are you at the tip of the plow? I see valiant friends stand for principle in their families, integrity in their work, or courage in the face of horrible adversity. Perhaps that’s our frontier today, where our own plow blade bites into the heart of experience.

Plowing by Carl Larsson Courtesy WikiArt.org, in public domain

Plowing, by Carl Larsson
Courtesy WikiArt.org, in public domain

 

Ye Shall Also Reap

Today I went with friends to pick plums for free in a neglected orchard. We all got enough to dry and make into plum jam or plum butter (yum!). I was reminded again of the abundance of nature. One plum seed grew into a large tree with hundreds of plums, which could seed a whole orchard, and from which thousands of plums could be harvested!  I’ll give some away, dry some, can some plum butter for winter breakfasts and Christmas gifts, and just enjoy eating them fresh.

But those plums didn’t just grow without help. The original farmer had to plant the seed, nurture the seedling, then the young tree, prune it, prevent pests, and finally harvest them properly before fruit meets taste buds. The same is true of any project or job we undertake. We had a saying in education about managing student behavior: Get what you want before you give the student what they want. Well, life demands the same: we have to sow and cultivate before we reap the harvest.

I get a lot of joy from my adult children and teenage grandchildren, but there was a price to be paid: hundreds, probably thousands of diapers; late night feedings; whining in stores; and endless meals and snacks. Sure they were fun as children, but they also created what sometimes seemed like thankless work.

I’m currently working on converting my booklet on managing children’s behavior into an ebook. Since it was originally typed on a word processor, I have to retype it, study the Kindle formatting guidelines, and find a cover designer. Then I’ll still have to promote it online and hope it sells – weeks to produce and months til we have a harvest. It’s a bigger project to find a publisher for my phonics readers, written in the 1980s and distributed only minimally since phonics weren’t in vogue then.

We can have a harvest in our characters as well. Quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sow a thought and you reap an action;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

As I look at my pantry with jars of soup, jam, and chicken broth and remind myself that the harvest is coming on my current projects. I believe there’s a harvest for my writing that will benefit both reader and author, and make the effort worthwhile. I can look for opportunities to say the kind word, not the nasty one, and hope for a better character. And I believe those plums will soon be nestled in jars and bags waiting to delight my taste buds this winter. Then I take heart for another day of cultivating my personal garden.

Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap;
therefore, if ye 
sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
(LDS Doctrine & Covenants 6:33)

Book Review:  When my kids were little, I came across a delightful book that I think I enjoyed even more than they did: The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.  It’s about a little boy  who plants a carrot seed, and his whole family tells him that “it won’t come up.” But the little boy continues to care for his seed anyway, believing that it will. All you gardeners out there know that carrot seeds are tiny and notoriously slow to germinate. Even though it’s very short, The Carrot Seed packs a real punch, especially if you’re down and don’t feel like the projects you’re nurturing will ever bear fruit!

The Carrot Seed Book Cover Author's Image of Own Book

The Carrot Seed Book Cover
Author’s Image of Own Book