Tag Archives: community

An Apple a Day Revisited

It was a completely unexpected outcome.  Researchers expected that patients would be more content.  They thought they might sleep better.  But nobody expected that redesigning a hospital room would cause people to ask for less pain medication.

The story was in the New York Times last week (In Redesigned Room, Hospital Patients May Feel Better Already – NYTimes.com).  University Medical Center of Princeton NJ needed a new hospital, and decided to try to design a new hospital room from the ground up.  After extensive interviews with patients, nursing staff and many others, the new room was created, tested and eventually incorporated in the new building.  People love it, staff love it: All the rooms are single patient, have large windows looking out, a couch for visitors, even (why didn’t they think of this a century ago???) a continuous handrail from bed to toilet.

The unsurprising surprise was that people in these new rooms get better faster:

But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30 percent less pain medication. Reduced pain has a cascade effect, hastening recovery and rehabilitation, leading to shorter stays and diminishing not just costs but also the chances for accidents and infections.

There are probably many reasons for this result.  One is certainly the window.

This  will not surprise anyone who has read  Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Louv’s thesis, backed up by extensive research that he cites throughout, is that we human beings are hard-wired to live in the natural world.  We are happier and healthier when we’re outside in God’s creation, but even when we can’t be outside in creation, we are better if we can just see it.

That’s not a surprise, is it?  I took some effort in my own book, When Heaven and Nature Sing, to show that our uniqueness as human beings comes in part from our special hybrid nature.  We are created by God to live in two worlds at the same time.  We’re spirit creatures (“a little lower than the heavenly beings”, Psalm 8:5) who live in the physical world.

We are not spirit beings who inhabit bodies. Nor are we bodies that have attained self-awareness as an extension of our brain’s organic cognitive functions. We are a spiritual/physical unity, ‘incarnate creatures’ (Tolkien’s term) or perhaps better, ‘embodied selves’. [When Heaven and Nature Sing (Kindle Locations 1109-1111)]

Hence the “apple a day” proverb of our title.  Our ancestors knew what we are fast forgetting.  Simple things from the world of nature – an apple a day – lead inevitably to health, to happiness, to rest.

The other important feature in the hospital room might well be the couch.  An accommodation for visitors and family members, with the expectation that they might even want to spend the night.  What a revolutionary idea.

I wonder if that fact that we need to invent things like couches in hospital rooms is simply an indication of how far we’ve moved from where we ought to be.  Wendell Berry has an entire essay on the topic of health that is worth your time to click over and read.  Here’s a taste of how he ties God, love, community and health into one impossible-to-untangle package:

I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world. summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.

I believe that health is wholeness. For many years I have returned again and again to the work of the English agriculturist Sir Albert Howard, who said, in The Soil and Health, that “the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man [is] one great subject.”

…I believe that the community-in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures-is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms. [Berry, Health is Membership, 1994]

The significance of all of this should be obvious.  One of the reasons we have an “environmental crisis” is because we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we’re not like the other creatures.  That somehow, with our great intellects and amazing creative abilities we can transcend our creatureliness.  That we don’t need apples and that we can heal ourselves with machines and with chemicals.


We can’t.

We don’t have feet of clay – we have feet of flesh and bone.  We need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to be out in God’s world.  We need the joys and the frustrations of family and friends and community.  And when we’re sick we need that more than ever!

That’s why people who can be in a carefully designed hospital room and look out at God’s sky, God’s trees and God’s birds, holding the hand of someone they love need 30% less pain medication.

Now if we could get those patients to spend time outside in creation before their hospital visit, maybe we would have 30% less people going to the hospital in the first place.

That might be worth a try!

So next time you find yourself headed for the hospital, just say, “I’ll take a room with a window, please.”

In Praise Of Porches

World's longest porch (they claim) - Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island MI (Flickr CC License)

This is one of my favorite columns, even five years later.  And quite appropriate for this long holiday weekend. Enjoy! (Originally published July 24, 2009)


I ‘ve had several opportunities this summer to enjoy some quiet moments on porches.  Not too long ago, I sampled my brother – -in-law’s porch in Bethesda, Maryland, not far from Washington DC.  The day was just right – not too hot, not cold, not very humid.  The porch furniture was just right – lovely couches that allowed me to sit up or lie back,  tall glass of sweet-tea close to the elbow.  The surround-sound soundtrack gave me birds, lawnmowers, airplanes, and an occasional car wandering down the street on the outdoor channel, while the murmur of voices reminded me of family members busy at various tasks inside the house.  Light patterns shifted with alternating clouds and sun, punctuated by an occasional summer rain shower that left almost as soon as it came.

It was a perfect place and a perfect time for reading – and I made the most of it. Continue reading

Climate Change and Creation Care as seen from the Congo

Spring 2013 class

At Care of Creation we were recently contacted by a Christian University in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  A group of students there was looking to publish a jointly-written report on environment and climate change as they experience it.   The following article, written by students from Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo/Christian Bilingual University of Congo (UCBC), highlights some recent creation care activities in the surrounding communities.  DRC is a nation wearied by war, severe poverty, governmental ineptitude, and endemic corruption.  It is in this context that the activities described in the report reveal something of the character of UCBC–an institution whose vision is to “raise up indigenous, Christian leaders to transform their communities and the nation of DRC.”  Read, ponder – and pray.  And let us know if you would like to help in some way.  (This article is cross-posted on the main Care of Creation website. The authors are Adeito Masika Tahirana, Annie Mboligihe, Baraka Kambale Alex, Nadine Kavira Vitya, and Patrick Masomeko Mikajo.)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the majority of the population is rural and lives dependent on the forest and subsistence farming. DRC’s Congo Basin rainforest is sometimes referred to as the  “second lung of the earth” because of its size, second only to the Amazon basin. However, through the growing lumber industry, people who live in this vast rainforest area often seek to supplement their livelihood by clearing forest trees to sell timber and produce charcoal for cooking. As the population grows rapidly, this activity has direct impacts on climate and the health of the land as the rainforest shrinks to make way for farmland and the lumber industry.

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Hurry up and Rest!

After a long hiatus that has included many activities besides writing blog posts (including bringing a new book When Heaven and Nature Sing to publication), I’m back and happy to be posting again.  Enjoy!

There’s an old parable I use from time to time to remind friends or colleagues (or myself) of how easy it is to try too hard or schedule too much and thereby to fall further behind.  The story goes like this:

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The Making of a ‘Call to Action’

This is a front-line report from the recent Jamaica Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel which I was privileged to lead. I didn’t have a lot of time for reflection during the Consultation, and am still somewhat overwhelmed with detail relating to the event.  However, Lowell Bliss has been reporting his experience regularly through the Eden Vigil Newsletter.  [Contact Lowell if you want to subscribe.]  Here is his most recent, describing the experience of coming up with a Consultation Call to Action.  [The document being described is still under review, but should be released publicly on Monday, November 12.  Watch for it in this space.]
“Buddy, you don’t know half the story!”

I didn’t say these words, but I was thinking them, as I acknowledged another consultant’s gracious encouragement that people were praying for our Statement Committee.  If only he knew about the hundreds of you who were so faithfully praying, even after internet communication had been cut from my side in Jamaica.

My heart is full of joy, but I’m feeling the rigor in my body even as I write these words.  The picture above is taken from the communion service on the final evening.  It depicts how exhausted I was by this point, but it also shows Chris (Canada) passing the wine to Cassien (Burundi).: “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” Chris had received it from the hands of Terry (First Nations Canada) who had received it from Darceuil (Trinidad and Tobago) who had received it from me (U.S.) who had received it from Robert (U.K.) who had received from Kuki (India). . . .  It was a thrilling experience of the Body of Christ.

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Earth Week 2012 – Two Perspectives

Yesterday was Earth Day, this week is Earth Week.  Many of my creation care friends are in Washington DC right now involved in a number of large scale events that we all hope will have great impact on the environmental and creation care conversation going on in the US in general and within the evangelical community in particular.  I’m not in Washington; I’ve just returned from the bustling metropolis of Arcadia, Florida – where a different kind of and altogether remarkable creation care event took place this weekend.  Let me tell you about it… Continue reading