Friday, January 27, 2012

Another Essay on Tax and Fairness

Taxes… you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.  Depending on how much money you made last year, you’re either dreading April 15 or trying to get your tax return filed just as soon as possible so you can get that much anticipated tax refund in your hands (which is probably already spent).  Am I right? 

If you want to light a fire under people, talk about taxes.  Before you know it, this idea of “paying your fair share” will raise its ugly head.  I heard it again this week from Mr. Al Sharpton… and everyone wants to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns and find out about his off shore accounts and tax loopholes.  More often than not, however, this idea of paying ones fair share only applies to a certain group of people… you know who they are --  the ones that make more money than you. 

Liberals love to pontificate on how the “rich” aren't paying their “fair share,” but have you ever heard a single one of them explain rationally what that even means? Define exactly what they believe is fair?  No. You haven't and you won't.  Because, as long as they can keep the argument vague, they can continue encouraging the class warfare that feeds their agenda of wealth redistribution.  This is great for stirring up the masses, however, if we choose instead to be rational people, we must define and understand the meaning of words.  

So let's talk about what we mean by a “fair share.”  Does “fairness” mean that a person who earns a very small living or none at all should be exempt from contributing to the social services from which they benefit, and the wealthier among us should have to bear all that cost?  No.  That is not fairness.  That is charity.  When the government does it, it is legalized robbery.  We don’t complain because we are so detached from the robbery that we don't recognize it.  We send in our taxes like good citizens and the government takes that money and gives it away as the politicians see fit. 

But what if the redistribution (robbery) was less disconnected?  What if your neighbor lost his job and went to the local department of human services to apply for welfare?  Then what if the welfare office handed your neighbor a $1,000 packet of cash and food stamps and sent YOU the bill?  You still have your job and make pretty good money.  You can afford it.  Then next month, what if your neighbor got sick and went to the doctor, and the doctor sent YOU the bill?  Now the redistribution of wealth hits closer to home.  But your neighbor is unemployed.  You can afford to pays his bills.  You have a good job, maybe even a little extra money.  What will your neighbor need next?  What will your neighbor demand will be his right to your money?  This is exactly what our progressive tax system accomplishes.

America has forgotten the proper function of government. As a population, we have been programmed over the last 80 years or so to believe that the government’s purpose is to take care of us – in our old age, when our pursuits fail, when we get sick, when disaster strikes. Seemingly gone is the concept of personal responsibility, of rustic individualism, of striving for our highest ideals, of picking ourselves up and starting over.  Now, those who do these things and succeed and become wealthy are somehow labeled as selfish, and the less fortunate cry out with one voice, “Raise their taxes, they can afford it!”

Our tax system is a mess for a lot of reasons, but one is that the higher that taxes climb, the harder the tax payer works to minimize the impact. We call this taking advantage of “tax loopholes”-- loopholes, by the way, that are invented by special interest groups and codified by Congress. What about you? Do you itemize if you can take advantage of a deduction for your mortgage interest? Of course you do. This is the epitome of common sense. Who willingly gives the fruit of his labor to the government? Every taxpayer, rich or not, will take advantage of every legal opportunity to minimize their tax burden. Roughly half of Americans pay no tax at all because of deductions allowed by the government.  No one HAS to take the deduction or tax credit allowed to them. But they do. You do. We all do. The problem isn't that people and corporations take advantage of loopholes; the problem is that those loopholes exist in the first place.  Don't hate people for trying to hang onto their property (yes, income is property).

If you still believe that this is an acceptable system, and that the rich should pay and the poor should not, so be it – that’s your right.  But be honest about it and stop pretending you believe in fairness.  The only FAIR income tax is one that every income-earner, large and small, pays equally. 

Here’s my solution.  Drop the “progressive” tax rate, put everyone on a single rate (10% is good enough for God, it should be good enough for the government), and eliminate credits and deductions for everyone.   Would it be enough to balance the budget? Certainly not by itself, but it would be a good start.  When everyone is finally paying their fair share, maybe then it will be a little easier to decide what we want to pay FOR and what we can do without.

I suppose I live in a dream world. If the federal government adopted my ideas, all those IRS employees would be out of work along with a good many CPAs and tax attorneys. Lobbyists would be out of work, too. Government would shrink and not grow. And, of course, all those not paying any tax right now would probably revolt.

But at least taxes would finally be fair.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Simple Cabbage Side Dish

When my dearly beloved announced to me when dinner was over that he was about to finish off the cabbage, I figured it was safe to post as a tasty recipe.  I served it with wild Alaska salmon... yum!

Cabbage, said to be one of the healthiest vegetables, is known for its high vitamin C and vitamin K content, providing you with 47% and 107% respectively in a mere half cup serving.  Cabbage is also said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, particularly in the brighter colored varieties (see nutritional facts).  

This dish is quick and easy to make and provides the additional benefit of nutrients from chicken bone broth.

  • About two cups shredded or chopped fresh organic white or green cabbage
  • One pint of home made chicken bone broth (see below*)
  • One large organic carrot, grated
  • Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tblsp softened butter (ideally from grass fed cow's milk)
In a medium sized pan (1 1/2 to 2 quart), heat the bone broth until it begins to boil.  Add the chopped or shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, and ground pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium-low or low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until tender but not mushy.  Remove from heat, drain off broth (save to use in a soup or other dish), add butter and salt to taste.  Serve.

This recipe makes enough for two to four, but can be easily increased or reduced. 

*To make a simple chicken bone broth, throw bones from raw or cooked chicken into a crock pot - include any meat scraps, wing tips, or skin that didn't get devoured by your hungry family.  Fill the crock pot with water and add about two tablespoons (for a small crock pot, increase for a larger pot) of apple cider vinegar.  I sometimes like to add raw vegetables I might have on hand for extra flavor - carrots, onion, and fresh parsley are always good choices.  Rutabaga is fast becoming one of my favorite broth or soup vegetables because it adds an extra layer of richness to the taste.  Cook on low at least overnight and up to two days.  When you're finished with the cooking, add salt to taste.  Then strain off the broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into pint-sized canning jars (or whatever size is convenient).  Add seals and covers, cool and refrigerate or freeze (if not planning to use within in a week or so).  The quantity of broth will depend on the size of your crock pot.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eating like a caveman doesn’t mean you believe you came from one!

Throughout all my reading and research on diet over this past year runs a common theme – humans “evolved” to eat a certain way.  In a word: HOGWASH.  In order to accept the idea that humans evolved, one must discard the truth of Creation.  I choose not to do that.  Instead, I find it quite easy to believe that mankind was CREATED to eat a certain way… and here’s my documentation:
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (And eat from it.) Genesis 2:15-16

“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you.  Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”  Genesis 9:3

This sounds every bit like a “Paleolithic” diet to me… fruits, vegetables, and meat.  I don’t see grain anywhere here.  Though the Bible certainly talks about people eating grain in our early history, nowhere (that I know of) does God tell us that grain has been given to us for food.  Why then do we eat it?  We may as well ask, why do we eat candy?  Why do we drink coffee?  Why do we drive cars?  Why do we take drugs?  Why do we sing and dance?  Why do we… (fill in the blank)?  Most of what we do is done to fulfill a need or gratify the senses. 

So is grain a need or a gratification?  I suppose that depends on who you are and where you live.  For people in desperate countries struggling with starvation, grain (if and when they can get it) is a need.  For Americans? ...not so much.   As a matter of fact, eating grains can be downright hazardous according to many health experts.  In a recent article on leaky gut syndrome by Dr. Mercola, he quotes from Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles: 

"There's no human requirement for grains. That's the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we're hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish."

"Grains are the seeds of a plant. They're its reproductive material, and plants don't make their reproductive material to give away for free to other animals. If they did they'd become extinct, and so the evolutionary strategy that many plants, particularly cereal grains, have taken to prevent predation is to evolve toxic compounds so that the predator of the seeds can't eat them, so that they can put their seeds in the soil where they're meant to be to grow a new plant and not in the gut of an animal to feed it."

[Side note… (See what I mean about the evolution hogwash?!)  If you were the All-Wise Creator, designing something to survive, would you not follow a strategy similar to what the evolution-philosophy suggests in the above quotation?  Substituting Creation philosophy makes more sense to me, but the resulting logic is the same – seeds (grains) are not on the menu.  (As a matter of fact, it makes so much sense that I would say the evolutionist philosophy has looked at God’s Creation and suggested that if there was no God, and we had to make up some explanation for life as we know it, this is probably what happened.)]

In short, in a Creation (or Paleolithic, if you must) Diet, grains are not on the menu.  And as with life in general, when we go outside of God’s best design for us, we’re bound to have problems.  Grains, and wheat in particular, will not kill us immediately; but like any vice, it will take its toll eventually. 

So back to the initial question:  Why do we eat it?  Because it tastes so darn good!  How can something that tastes so good be bad for us?  (Ask a drug addict.)  In his book Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis makes the case that wheat is actually addictive.  When subjected to the acid and enzymes in the stomach, gluten (the main protein of wheat) breaks down into polypeptides (chains of amino acids) which are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain.  “Once having gained entry into the brain, wheat polypeptides bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the very same receptor to which opiate drugs bind.”  Some experts might argue that this addictive element is some kind of evolutionary ploy by wheat to overcome extinction from seed-eating by teaming up with the creature at the top of the food chain (humans) to guarantee perpetual cultivation, i.e. farming.  This was Michael Pollan’s hypothesis in The Omnivore’s Dilemma with regard to the cultivation of corn.  However, being a God-believing creationist, I’m blaming it on the curse:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” Genesis3:17-18

I know – there’s nothing in there about wheat addiction, but God doesn’t tell us everything.  And a curse, though perhaps not very scientific, would certainly explain the problem. 

Regardless of what you believe about the origin of life, it’s hard to argue that there are any redeemable virtues in grain—other than taste.  But don’t take MY word for it – and DON’T buy into the government hype that there is any such thing as a “healthy grain.”  There is a growing abundance of research on this topic, beginning with the articles highlighted in this post.  (How Does a Paleo Diet Benefit Your Health?)

Call it a “Paleolithic Diet” or a “Creation Diet”… either way, this diet of meats, vegetables, and fruit is guaranteed to bless you with the best possible health.  The only question left is, can we do it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Diabetes...What we don't know can kill us!

News flash of the day:  Paula Dean, the famous southern cooking show host and restaurant owner famous for her greasy, fatty foods, has announced that she has Type II diabetes.  Are we surprised?  Frankly, it was just a matter of time.  But before you get the wrong idea, it wasn't the greasy, fatty foods that caused her problem.  What is the number one contributor to diabetes?  Say it with me... "SUGAR."  Specifically chronic high blood sugar.  Every dietician worth his or her salt knows that diabetes is the result of insulin resistance brought on by too much sugar in the diet (including foods that break down into sugar, i.e. carbohydrates). 

So why does the American Diabetes Association continue to get away with erroneous declarations like this one?

"Heredity, according to the American Diabetes Association, always plays some part. 'You can’t just eat your way to Type 2 diabetes,' said Geralyn Spollett, the group’s director of education. But, Ms. Spollett added, Southern cooking, as often practiced, can be particularly hazardous to those predisposed to the disease. 'There’s no denying that Paula’s food has a lot of what we call the deadly triangle: fat, sugar and salt,' she said." (Excerpt from article)

While heredity does play a part in diabetes, the truth is you CAN eat your way to Type II diabetes!  But, there is absolutely no connection between diabetes and fat or salt.  If there is a "deadly triangle," it would be sugar, bread, and processed foods, because these are the building blocks of the three major chronic diseases of the western world-- diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

As Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, who worked with Type II diabetics in the early days of her practice, explained in her book, The Schwarzbein Principle:
    "When insulin levels are kept high too long, the result is a physiology that promotes excessive body-fat gain, a physiology prone to infections and all the chronic degenerative diseases of aging:  osteoarthritis, different types of cancer, cholesterol abnormalities, coronary artery disease, ... high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stroke, and Type II diabetes." (p. 11)

I have two good friends who come to mind as I write this post.  Both were diagnosed in their 40s with Type II diabetes.  One made a life change.  He eliminated the sugar and refined foods from his diet and began running and exercising on a regular basis.  Within a year or two he was off insulin therapy and had no significant symptoms of diabetes.  He is currently as healthy as the proverbial ox.  My other friend's health steadily declined over the years under the care of doctors while following the "standard" treatment prescribed by the mainstream medical profession.  She passed away last year after 15 years of misery.  I wish I had known the truth about diabetes while she was still alive.  I wish somebody had told her the truth about diabetes.

My sympathies are with Paula Dean because diabetes is a dreadful and debilitating disease.  But she will be better served by forgoing the expensive $500 a month medication and treating the CAUSE of her illness - her diet.  

Ignorance is bliss?  You decide.  I've adopted a new mantra:  What we don't know can kill us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sausage and Root Vegetables

Once in awhile, I'll be posting a favorite's the first.  This is a dish that developed when I had forgotten to plan anything for dinner and came home from work wondering what to fix.  (You're probably MUCH more organized, and I'm sure that never happens to you.)  The sausage was frozen, but I pulled it out of the freezer and set it simmering in the pan.  Then I rummaged through the fridge to see what else I had.  Sometimes this very unscientific process results in the best meals.  Oh, and by the way... make enough for left-overs -- this dish tastes twice as good the second day!

1 lb. savory pork sausage (from your local farmer, if possible, but otherwise as natural as you can find it)
1 large organic turnip, washed and cubed (peeling is optional, but it's better not to)
1 large organic rutabaga, washed and cubed (again, peeling optional)
1 large (or 2 small) organic potato, peeled, and cubed
1 cup fresh or frozen organic green beans, cut into pieces (or...home-canned, if you do that kind of thing)
2 cups home-made chicken broth (bone broth is best; otherwise you can substitute organic canned broth)
Sea salt to taste - I used about a teaspoon

Gently brown sausage in cast iron or stainless steel skillet on medium heat until cooked through.  Add cubed vegetables and broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low about 15 minutes or until vegetables are done (can be split easily with a fork, but not yet dissolved into mush).  Remove from heat; serve in wide shallow bowls.  Serves 3 to 4 (or two with left-overs!)

This is a great winter dish.  Root vegetables are natural winter vegetables and pair beautifully with the spicier pork sausage.

For the broth, just stew your left-over chicken bones in a crock pot with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar (you can add veggies if desired - carrots & onion are my favorites) for 8 to 12 hours.  Then salt to taste, let it cool, strain it off, and store it in the freezer in pint-size jars.  Yum!  But, of course, you'll need to have this done in advance.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunday Salt: "Lord, what about him?"

In the final stage of Jesus' walk on earth, after his resurrection but before his ascension, he appeared three times to his disciples.  On the last of those occasions, recorded in the last chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus appears to Peter, John (the author), and some others as they were fishing early in the morning.  Jesus stood on the shore near where they were fishing and called out to them, "Friend's, haven't you any fish?" "No," they said.  "Throw your net on the right side of the boat," Jesus suggests, "and you will find some."  Now, any fisherman worth his salt would have rolled his eyes and thought, "Is this a joke?  Great help - thanks!"  But, apparently, they were either very tired or very desperate -- possibly at that "we'll try anything" stage.  Upon hauling up a net-load of fish, they realized who that man on the shore was, and Peter jumps into the water and heads for the shore.  When the rest of the disciples showed up with the boat, Peter and Jesus had a fire going and invited them to breakfast.

After they finished eating, Jesus and Peter took a walk and had a "heart to heart" talk.  You remember the story.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him; Peter says, "You know that I love you."  Jesus says, "Feed my sheep."  This happens three times.  The third time, Jesus spoke of Peter's martyrdom.  He said, "When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not wish to go."  Peter's path was to follow Jesus in crucifixion.  It must have been a sinking moment for Peter.  Perhaps his joy faltered. He looked back briefly and saw that John was following them, and Peter said to Jesus, "What about him?"

What about him?  What about her?  Why do things happen to me and not them?  God, why me?  How often are we guilty of asking these questions when we feel our life is hard and others have it much better?  I'm currently reading a book entitled, A Martyr's Grace.  It is a compilation of short accounts of missionaries from the Moody Bible Institute that have been martyred in the field over the years.  Reading these stories brings to mind how sheltered Christians in this country are.  Most of us will never have to worry about being so much as insulted for our faith, while others around the world continue to be tortured and killed for sharing the message of Jesus Christ.

Jesus' answer to Peter was profound:  "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow me."

What the Lord was trying to impress upon Peter was a simple message that is relevant to all people for all time:  God's plan for other Christians is none of our business.  We are, each and every one of us, unique.  The path that each life takes will be different.  Our job is to find out what God's plan is for us and not worry about the other guy.  (Read Ephesians 4:1-16.)  Peter took this to heart and rose to the occasion with courage and tenacity, spreading the gospel of Christ with zeal until his death.

May we never ask, "What about him?" ... but, instead, accept with grace the life God has given us, put on our blinders and follow Him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Dentists Don't Tell You

This week I have an appointment at my dentist for my semi-annual cleaning.  After having recently read the book, Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel, I am having second thoughts about going back to a regular dentist.  So, I cancelled the appointment; and instead, I have made an appointment with a "holistic" dentist. 

But first, a little history...

When I was a child (about nine years old, as I recall) my parents decided to take advantage of my father's military dental benefits and take me to the dentist, my mouth being full of cavities (and probably toothaches).  I wasn't much of a milk drinker--as a matter of fact, I was an extremely picky eater--and so was more than likely deficient in a variety of vitamins AND minerals, which took its toll on my teeth.  After having a very unhappy "discussion" with the dentist (that resulted in an unfortunate biting incident), and eventually coming to an agreement of reluctant cooperation, the good doctor began what turned out to be a life-long process of filling my mouth with "silver."  As I write, I have four porcelain crowns, three of which are root canals, six teeth with amalgam fillings (one of which is chipped and in need of repair), and probably a few lurking cavities that will eventually need attention. 

You may be wondering (about now) what's wrong with fillings?  How about THIS for starters:  roughly 50% of the material called an "amalgam" filling is none other than the highly toxic heavy metal we know as mercury.   Amalgam is shipped to the dentist's office labeled as a "hazardous material."  If you have an amalgam filling in your mouth, every time you chew, drink, grind your teeth, brush or otherwise disturb the surface of the filling, it will produce mercury vapor in your mouth.  According to a recent article on, "Mercury vapor from the amalgams passes readily through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system, where it causes psychological, neurological, and immunological problems. Children and fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are most at risk, but really anyone can be impacted."  In short, mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin. Check out this short video! 

And yet the dentist does not by law have to disclose any of this to you or me! 

So now you understand a little better about my second thoughts.  But there's more.  Conventional dentists cannot cure cavities or heal teeth.  They can only pull them, drill them, and fill them (usually with poison) we all have plenty of experience with.  But, are you aware that teeth are capable of remineralizing?  Have you ever had a dentist tell you that your rotting teeth might be connected to a poor diet?  Probably not.  They will patiently explain to you that you don't brush enough or floss enough... but once you get that cavity, well, teeth just don't heal-- and once they rot, that's pretty much it for you.  (But BONES heal, don't they?  Why would teeth be any different?)  One thing is for certain-- they won't heal if they're drilled away and packed with amalgam or removed from your mouth!

The conventional explanation of tooth decay is bacteria.  But, here's a thought:  God created our teeth and put them into a mouth full of bacteria where he knew we would eat food, which would cause chemical reactions like acid.  Even if you don't believe God created your teeth, common sense ought to tell us that if bacteria caused tooth decay, everyone would have rotten teeth before they reached adulthood!  (What kid do YOU know who brushes his teeth properly?)  And, of course, we know that's not the case. Lots of people have perfectly wonderful teeth.

According to Dr. W. D. Miller, a dentist and researcher of the late 1800s, a tooth's ability to withstand decay is dependent upon its density and structure and the protection of the enamel around the neck of the tooth by healthy gums.  He believed such a tooth would "resist indefinitely the same acid to which a tooth of opposite character would succumb in a few weeks."   In other words, a tooth's density will protect it against decay.  Dr. Nagel, also a dentist, explains in his book the physiological connection between diet, hormones (the parotid hormone in particular) and mineral-rich dental lymph excreted by our own bodies through microscopic channels in our teeth to clean and remineralize them.  On the other hand, it is possible to eat a cavity-causing diet (the one I was eating most of my life!)  Not only that, but tooth decay tends to increase with age (not a good statistic if you're me!)   

Now, why don't dentists tell us this??

As some of my readers may already know, it was Dr. Weston Price who first made the connection between dental health and diet.  I won't burden you with details on that research as you can easily find in on the Weston Price web site and in a score of published works, including Dr. Nagel's.  Suffice it to say, proper diet produces healthy teeth.  Too bad I (or my parents) didn't know about this years ago.

So in a few weeks, I open a new door and decide whether or not to step through it.  Since the day that a doctor of dentistry put his finger unbidden into my mouth at the tender age of nine, I have thoroughly hated going to the dentist.  But, I do like to eat, and appreciate the convenience of having my own teeth, such as they are.  I would like to keep it that way as long as I can.  My first appointment will be a consultation and x-rays.  I'll write a follow-up post in February with the prognosis.  (Say a little prayer for me.)

P.S.  In case you're wondering what happened to my follow-up post, my appointment was rescheduled to March, so that will be coming up shortly.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Exercise of a different kind

Last year my husband, Mark, and I decided to exercise our Second Amendment rights.  We each purchased a handgun.  Depending on where you live in the country, there are any number of regulatory hoops to jump through; but where we live, all we needed was a "Permit To Purchase" from our local police department and a federal background check.  Finally, yesterday evening we headed over to Gander Mountain for their introductory training course.  Mark had a certificate from Living Social that gave us a 50% discount on the price of one course.

The Gander Mountain Academy (not available at every location) has a wonderful training facility that includes both a live fire range and simulators that use laser pistols with a weight and kick similar to that of an actual gun.  Our initial training included a gun safety summary, a little bit of time on a simulated firing range to get used to the gun, and then some simulators for rapid firing and situational decision-making... THAT was interesting.  The simulator brought up "real life" scenarios designed to make you think:  When do you shoot, when do you not shoot, and when do you retreat entirely?  After that, we were given some time on the live-fire shooting range. (I did quite well!)  Our instructor was a retired law enforcement detective and gave us tips on stance, how to grip the gun properly, and how to respond in given threat (or perceived threat) situations.  We highly recommend investing in at least one of their training courses if you plan to own a firearm.

Owning a gun is still a right in this country (for awhile, at least), but it is a somber responsibility.  Like an automobile, a firearm can be a deadly device when not used properly -- with caution, extreme care, and the knowledge that YOU can kill someone with it.  Even in situations of self-defense, taking the life of another person is a profoundly serious thing... an action that will change you forever.

The Good Book says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  (Romans 12:18.)  But it's nice to know that I have a backup when peace doesn't work!  Nevertheless, I hope the only targets I ever have to deal with will be paper ones.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Salt... Who is Jesus?

Who was Jesus?  This is a question that still troubles people, two thousand plus years after his death.  There are many reasons, I suppose, but perhaps one of the biggest is that we humans have trouble believing anything we can't thoroughly understand.  

Jesus told us in his Word who he was many times...often in riddles and parables, but often enough straight-forward.  I watched a documentary once a few years ago in which the narrator posited that Jesus was trying to commit suicide -- what else would explain the way he taunted the Jewish authorities into attacking him.  For the unbeliever, I can see how they might think so.  For example...

Jewish leader: "Are you greater than our father Abraham? ... Who do you think you are?"
Jesus:  "My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.  Though you do not know him, I know him.  If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you...Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day..."
Jewish leader:  "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?"
Jesus:  "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am."
   At this, they picked up stones to stone him... (John 8:53-59)

Jewish leader:  "How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus:  "I did tell you, but you do not believe... My sheep know my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life...I and the Father are one."
   The Jews picked up stones to stone him... (John 10:24-31)

You have probably heard it said (ad nausea um) that Jesus was nothing more than a great teacher, a wonderful moral example to mankind.  Really?  Do you realize how absurd that statement is?  A man who goes to his death claiming to be God is one of two things:  God, or a lunatic.  To believe such a man is a great teacher or moral in any way would be to say that lying and deceit is moral behavior, false teaching makes one great, and narcissism is desirable. 

What do YOU believe about Jesus?  The documentarian above was right (to a point) about Jesus.  Jesus declared in John 10:17-18:  "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again."  Jesus was not killed.  He willingly laid down his life.  He handed himself over to be slain as a willing sacrifice.  He had the power to say no!

The Jews asked:  "Will he kill himself?  Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?"
Jesus:  "You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
   (John 8:22-24)

Jesus claimed to be God.  He preached truth and redemption for three years and then laid down his life for the sins of the world, according to a plan hatched before the beginning of creation.  By his authority to take up his life again, he rose from the grave and, after walking among men for 40 days, he ascended to his Father in heaven where he continues to make intercession for us as our High Priest. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Amazing?  Incredible?  Unbelievable?

Who is Jesus?  "Stop doubting and believe." (Jesus) John 20:27.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Musings on the Atkins Diet

My father is 86 years old.  He still swims laps on a regular basis, bowls in a league, rides a bicycle during the summer months, and (to my distress) mows his own lawn and does most of his own home repairs.  He is as healthy as an old guy can be.  Sometime in his 70s, my sister persuaded Dad to go on the Atkins Diet™.  Though having been a rail of a man his whole life, he (like most in their later years) gradually began to put on weight in his 60s and 70s to the point of being officially overweight.  

The new diet was magical.  He ate meat and salad, no fruit, hardly any other vegetables, no bread, no sugar, and lots…I mean LOTS of fat.  Cream, half & half, mayonnaise by the gallon jugs, eggs galore, cheese, nuts.  And, guess what?  He lost weight.  Within a year or two, he was trim and feeling better than ever… except for the high blood pressure, and the high cholesterol, and the constipation, and the achy muscles, and the medications to manage them all.
So is Atkins™ all that it’s cracked up to be?  It has a lot of followers and actually works for weight loss.  But is it healthy?

Before I understood anything about healthy fat (read more about this) and the dangers of the conventional diet (i.e. low-fat), I worried about the amount of fat my dad was consuming on this diet.  Sure, I was happy he’d cut out sugar…I always knew sugar was bad, but I was convinced that fat was going to kill him for sure!   

Now that I can rest easy about the fat myth, I revisit this issue from another perspective:  NUTRITION.  Weight management is important, but not at the expense of nutrition.  I believe we can have both.

Some of the things Dad eats that I have a problem with:
    Diet soft drinks by the case.  Why?  Artificial sweeteners, chemicals, food color.
     “Sugar-free” dessertsWhy?  Artificial sweeteners, chemicals, food color.
     Bacon, sausage, jerkyWhy?  Sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite.
     Mayonnaise (in large quantities).  Why?  Soy bean oil in large quantities.
     GravyWhy?  MSG.
     Soy bean oil (in just about every salad dressing on the market).  Why?  Soy bean oil.

What Dad doesn’t eat because of “too many” carbs:
    Fresh fruit (loaded with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants)
     Most vegetables, but especially carrots, beets, yams (loaded with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants)
     Honey, raw or otherwise (raw honey contains healthy enzymes and contributes to immune system health)
    Home made soups (loaded with vitamins and minerals when made from bone broth and fresh vegetables

Rather than minimizing or eliminating unhealthy foods, such as sugar and wheat, and changing ones eating paradigm, the Atkins Diet™ encourages its participants to merely replace the bad things they like with chemical-laden false-food substitutes—even to the point of marketing a whole line of processed “foods” designed to do just that.  What they end up doing is replacing one kind of unhealthy thing with another.

Now, don't get me wrong-- I'm not trying to take on the Atkins establishment in this post.  Eating low-carb has been a proven remedy for obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as many other ailments.  (Check out Gary Taubes' work on the benefits of low-carb diets in Why We Get Fat, and Good Calories Bad Calories.)  But in today’s ultra-processed food environment, our health is being bombarded by much more than just carbohydrates.  (See my post on yellow food color, "Yellow...but not mellow".)  The closer we can get to natural food, the happier our bodies will be. 

Why not combine the Atkins principles of restricting carbohydrates (particularly sugar and wheat, which are the most unhealthy) with a passion for farm-fresh food.  Choose your meat and dairy from pastured animals. Select organic fruits and vegetables as often as possible - or grow your own.  Shop from local farmer's markets as often as you can.  And cook your own food.  And on the occasion that you need to buy packaged foods - read labels and avoid anything that you can't identify in your mind's eye as an actual food (example:  carnauba wax!). 

Well, Dad's not there yet...and perhaps he never will be.  He is 86, after all, and rather stuck in his ways.  But, being the fanatic that I am, I'm still working on him.  My next challenge is to get him off his statin drugs...a topic for another post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Journey to Healthy Eating

This is a long (nearly an hour) but worth watching video of a presentation by a medical doctor to doctors on the topic of dietary fat :

The current misinformation fed to the public about dietary fat is just one of many examples of what happens when the government gets involved in managing society.  Government funding of research always breeds results designed to perpetuate funding (i.e. give ‘em what they want to hear to keep the money flowing).  Add to the mix the collusion of government and big business, and you get subsidies designed to benefit some industries over others, regulations designed to favor big corporations while putting small enterprises out of business, and squelching of the free market in favor of a bureaucracy that dictates how you will live based on pseudo-science and politics.  

Show me someone on a low-fat diet, and I’ll show you someone with health problems struggling to maintain a healthy weight.  Before I changed my diet to lower-carb/higher-fat, I was that person—counting calories, always hungry and tired, and accosted by cancer.  After my cancer surgery, a friend suggested I read The China Study, which for those of you who don’t know, implicates meat protein as a trigger for cancer.  I bought it and read it immediately (by the way, I don’t recommend the book to anybody!)  And (being the fanatic I am) I immediately plunged into a mostly-vegan diet (packed full of processed food) with the intent to make my body healthier and avoid the possible recurrence of my cancer.  I watched as carefully as I could to avoid all casein.   

For about six months I followed this diet, eating lots of soy – particularly soy milk.  During this period I continued to struggle with weight gain and never really felt good.  Gradually, I began to cheat—adding a little fish here, an egg there, some cheese here and there.  Then, about a year ago, at a family Christmas gathering, my niece told me about the dangers of soy and recommended new reading material for me.  At once (being the fanatic I am) I began again to research diet and nutrition.  I discovered some websites that caught my interested, and the title of a book popped up (providentially, I believe) with a title that I couldn’t resist:  Why We GetFat And What To Do About It, by Gary Taubes.  Coming from a family where obesity runs rampant and having struggled my whole life with up-and-down weight gain, I had to see what this guy had to say.  

In this book, everything I’d been told about diet was challenged.  After a little more reading and research, I put the low-carb/high-fat diet to the test.  Within a month, I was feeling better, I had lost 8 pounds without counting calories, and my food (particularly sweet food) cravings were gone.  That was the beginning of my journey to health.  The more I learned, the more my diet changed, eliminating processed foods – not just carbs – and switching my meat and dairy (as much as possible) to the pastured variety.   As I write this, I am 58 years old and my only medication is HRT (hormone replacement therapy to treat severe post-menopausal hot flashes).  In time, I hope to be free of that as well.

My journey to healthy eating has been gradual, and I still have much to learn.  But one thing I’ve discovered:  government knows NOTHING about nutrition.  Furthermore, government NEVER has the best interest of its citizens at heart.  If you believe it does, you do not understand the nature of government.  Government exists to perpetuate itself and grow its own power.  Its ultimate goal is to rule over its citizens, not to care for them.  Once you understand this, you will find it much easier to question the “conventional wisdom” that prevails and step freely into the fresh air of common sense.

Monday, January 2, 2012

To resolve or not to resolve . . . that is the question

I asked my husband last night if he'd made any New Year resolutions for 2012… he replied that he never makes them anymore because he never keeps them.   

Sound familiar?   

Being a perpetual resolution-maker myself, I thought about that for a moment.  Every year I make one or more “resolutions” (Resolution:  firm decision to do something), which, usually within mere weeks, fizzle away into the oblivion of daily life, never to be resurrected again until right around December 29 or 30. 

So much for firm decisions. 

So, what is it about making New Year resolutions that appeals to us, anyway?  Perhaps nothing more than the desire to be a better person.  The beginning of a new year looks very much like a clean slate—a chance to start over.  And so we resolve to… (do any of these sound familiar?)
  • Lose 10 pounds this year
  • Stop smoking
  • Cut out sweets
  • Get organized
  • Go to church more often
  • Stay connected with family and friends
  • Turn off the TV and read
  • Do more with the kids 
What are your resolutions this year?  Did you make any?  I have three:
     1 – De-clutter my life (an on-going process)
     2 – Read through the Bible this year
     3 – Keep resolutions 1 and 2

Given my track record, the chances are good that this year’s resolutions will go the way of every other year’s resolutions…but, where there’s life, there’s hope, they say.   And in the effort, I’m sure to come out better than had I not tried at all.

Side Note…

How do YOU do it?  

I used to be able to sit down and make a menu plan for a month – when I had a houseful of kids…and worked, too!  Now it’s just me and hubby, and it seems an impossible task to plan even one week at a time.   

As a result, most of what I cook is thrown together, and a little boring.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve thrown out most of my cookbooks.  Since our fairly recent transition to a low-carbohydrate and mostly natural food diet, I found very little in those old cookbooks worth keeping.  

Fortunately for me (and to his credit), Mark will eat almost anything I make.  But fried chicken liver and steamed vegetable, no matter how healthy, takes a little of the joy out of eating.  

I’m still working full time, so any suggestions from my readers on the following topics will be gratefully considered:
   1. Meal planning techniques to save time (for two people)

   2. Tried & true recipes using healthy ingredients (i.e. nothing low-fat, nothing processed, nothing with soy…and if possible – for Mark’s sake – nothing with cheese or milk) 

… are you beginning to understand my problem? 

I'm gradually building up a new "cookbook" consisting of a 3-ring binder filled with recipes torn from magazines, printed from internet sites, or recorded by hand from the occasional successful attempt to "throw something together" (slipped into plastic sheet protectors for safe-keeping).  Donations welcome!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yellow . . . but not mellow

Yellow 5, a synthetic food dye also known as tartrazine, is a USDA-approved food color present in many foods and other products.  You might expect to find it in foods such as lemon pudding or soft drinks like Mellow Yellow (tm), and certainly in yellow-colored candy like cotton candy and candy corn.  But do you know that Yellow 5 shows up in (among other things) potato and tortilla chips, in jam, mustard, yogurt, and (believe it or not) in pickles?  

That’s right, being the fanatic that I am, I am compelled to read labels when I shop (more now than ever, it seems), and on my last shopping trip to replenish my husband’s supply of pickles (of which he goes through in gallon jars every month or two), I decided to check out the label.  After inspecting each brand available on the grocery store shelf and finding Yellow #5 in every single one, I walked away without pickles... but the search continues.

So, what’s so bad about a little Yellow #5 food color in your pickles, you might ask?  Probably nothing if you ate one pickle a year, or a month, or maybe even a week.  But herein lies the problem:  saturation.   It is conventional wisdom that a little bit of anything probably won’t hurt you.  But what happens when that something shows up in nearly everything you eat?  How do you know when a substance crosses the threshold of becoming dangerous to your health? 
According to several sites I explored (listed below), here are some of the suspected health effects of tartrazine:
  • Allergic reactions (mild itching, skin rashes) 
  •  Hypersensitivity 
  •  “Seems to” cause hyperactivity in some children 
  •  Blurred vision 
  •  Migraine 
  •  Fatigue 
  •  Anxiety 
  •  Sleep disturbance 
  •  Purple skin patches 
  •  Cancer
This substance is banned in Austria and Norway, but is legal most everywhere else-- and, of course, our U.S. government has deemed it safe for ingestion (so it MUST be safe, right?)  Wikipedia (the expert on everything) cited this result from mammal research: “Tartrazine adversely affects and alters biochemical markers in vital organs, e.g., liver and kidney, not only at higher doses, but also at low doses.”

How much is too much?  Who knows?   One thing is certain:  if you or your child eats primarily processed food, you are probably getting enough in your diet to adversely affect your health.

I know...I'm worrying about nothing.  It's just a little food color, right?  Easter eggs, frosted birthday cakes loaded with dye...the government wouldn't allow anything in our food supply if it was dangerous.  Silly me.  I'm probably overreacting....